ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As the U.S. plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans, some with weakened immune systems are already rolling up their sleeves.
People being treated for cancer are some of the first in line to get their 3rd shot.
Lori McJury has been fighting Metastatic Breast Cancer for a couple of years. She got her booster shot Thursday night.
“My medication does suppress my immune system so I am more at risk to get diseases or even colds and things like that, so I want to be as prepared as I can with this booster,” McJury said.
McJury is part of the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. She and many other women battling cancer have compromised immune systems, which puts them at higher risk when it comes to catching viruses. This makes the booster shot even more important for them.
“I am truly looking forward to getting my booster. I am going to be seeing my primary next week and I strongly suspect I will be getting my booster then,” said Diane Lucey, who has been in remission since March of 2020.
If someone with cancer is infected with a virus, it can impact their health and also their cancer treatment.
“When someone has stage 4 cancer and are on active chemotherapy, it’s life-long to keep the cancer in control and when there is an infection, the chemo therapy is going to be held for that duration, to give the immune system a chance to fight COVID,” said Pamala Polashenski, a local physician who is battling Stage 4 breast cancer.
There’s also some uncertainty about how long the vaccine lasts, making it even more important for people with weakened immune systems to be vaccinated.
“I think also with people who are immunocompromised, we are not sure how well it works the first time around and so I think it’s very important for us to get the booster incase our immune system didn’t take well to it the first time,” Polashenski said.
Many of the women with the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester call themselves “thrivers” as they battle cancer, supporting one another along their journeys.
“We are all in the same boat, and to be able to tell someone your fears and not see their face just crumble, like when I talk to family and friends who aren’t going through this, and to really be able to share what you’re going through is really valuable and COVID made that tough,” Polashenski said.
Now that many of them are vaccinated, the group have been able to return to meeting together in person, something many say is super important.
However, there’s still millions of Americans who haven’t been vaccinated and members with the coalition encourage them to do so.
“It’s not just important to me, it’s important to anybody who wants to stay well and if we are ever going to get this pandemic under control, there has to be some responsibility and I know there’s a lot of people out there who don’t believe in it, and they have a right to feel that way, but I wish that they would consider others,” Lucey said.
“We are in this together. This is not an individual thing.”
For those who have a compromised immune system, health officials say you can get your COVID-19 booster shot 28 days after your two-dose vaccine series was completed.