Updated: Oct 18, 2021
When various COVID-19 vaccines started to roll out in December 2020, I was thrilled like many people. I also knew that there was going to be a rush of people wanting to be vaccinated as soon as possible, and that it would be pretty difficult to get a dose early on. This became even more clear once it was revealed that the approved vaccines both required two doses for maximum efficiency.
In January, my state (Pennsylvania) began distributing more and more vaccines to pharmacies statewide. After healthcare workers were vaccinated in Group 1A, people with certain pre-existing health conditions were eligible to receive a vaccine as part of Group 1B. When I went on my county’s website, I was struck by how limiting the eligibility requirements were. They had a list of acceptable medical conditions, and if you didn’t fall into any of the categories, you weren’t eligible for the vaccine.
Unfortunately for me, congenital muscular dystrophy didn’t make the list. Neither did muscular dystrophy, general neuromuscular disorders, or even general respiratory disease. I clearly had an underlying condition, one that placed me at risk of severe complications from COVID-19. But I somehow didn’t make the cut for a vaccine in the high-risk category!
I ended up filling out the form and saying that I have COPD, which was not true but felt like the closest to describing the respiratory issues that I have. I never heard back from the county about getting a vaccine through their program. However, along with that sign-up, I began checking pharmacy websites that were listed on Pennsylvania’s state website. Soon thereafter, I got very lucky when a friend tipped me off that a Rite-Aid near me had available appointments. I managed to secure one for February 5.
That morning, my mom drove me to Rite-Aid and I went back to the pharmacy. I waited a few minutes for a nurse to become available, then went back to their room and got the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. I didn’t have any allergic reaction or side effects. Since then I haven’t had any adverse health effects. When I was in the room, they handed me my vaccination card and scheduled me for a follow-up. The Moderna vaccine has a time of four weeks between doses, so I go back March 5.
I know that I’m very lucky to live in a state that has any eligibility for people with underlying health conditions. Many states, such as California, have faced a lot of pushback for using an exclusively age-based approach. I’d strongly suggest looking into your state or country’s protocols for distributing the vaccine. If possible, sign up everywhere you can. As more vaccines become available, such as Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine, it will become easier to get one. Obviously, it shouldn’t have been this difficult to start with. But I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to cut through the red tape and get a vaccine.
I don’t have full immunity with my first shot, but my sense of relief since I got my dose is immeasurable. We’re still staying home and be extra careful, but my sense of creeping dread has slowly begun to disappear. I’m counting down the days until March 19, which is two weeks after my second dose and when I’ll hopefully have close to my full immunity.
I’ll provide another update after my second dose. But I hope that people in the CMD are able to get a vaccine and protect ourselves from COVID. It should not be as hard to get one as it currently is in this country, but I promise it will be worth it to keep trying.