I chose the J&J booster despite CDC’s ‘mix and match’ option

 
Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell, a participant in the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine trials, gets her J&J booster shot. (Courtesy photo)

 

by Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell, Tri-State Defender

All three approved COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – are now safe for booster shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

So, on Oct. 21, I took the Johnson & Johnson booster. Nearly 24 hours later, I felt sensational.

I mean it. Not only did I escape any possible side effects, I can clearly see an end to this deadly pandemic just up the road.

I have peace and optimism abounds, despite the on-going fight between vaccine proponents and vaccine opponents, and masking supporters and masking critics.

On the morning of Oct. 21, I was back in the office of St. Jude’s experimental annex, waiting to take a second J&J shot — my booster. 

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine was highly sought initially by many because it only required one shot, unlike Pfizer and Moderna, which required two shots for full vaccination.

As a subject participating in the J&J vaccine study at St. Jude, I was given the option of taking a J&J booster, or a booster of one of the other two. I could mix and match, a doctor explained to me.

The CDC had deemed the practice as being safe. 

Every vaccine does, primarily, the same thing. Remarkable, I thought. Approval of mix and match boosters had literally happened overnight.

I opted to stay with the J&J booster. But first, I had to sign additional consent forms and give more blood for testing the vaccine. 

Also, the side effects of taking the J&J booster had to be discussed and I was required to acknowledge that I fully understood the risks.

I did understand the risks because I had read updated data of J&J. Adults 60 and older who took the J&J booster experienced one main side effect, pain and soreness at the injection site.

About 29 percent reported headache and fatigue; 26 percent complained of muscle pain. Smaller percentages of over-60 participants reported nausea and fever.

Essentially, anyone taking the J&J booster could expect more of the same side effects that followed after the initial injection.

Giving blood is always a kind of ordeal for me, but getting the booster wasn’t so bad. 

I waited the customary 15 minutes for the staff to observe and monitor any changes that might be dangerous.

On Friday (Oct. 22) morning, the soreness in my arm was gone. There was no aching or discomfort, and I felt optimistic that enough people will finally get vaccinated, as well, and take the booster as a step toward eradicating COVID-19 in the foreseeable future.

It is unbelievable that nearly two years in, a war still rages between vaxers and anti-vaxers. 

Great effort has been invested into stressing the importance of African Americans and other communities of color taking a vaccine. 

Because of the historic, systemic health disparities, outcomes for these communities have been disproportionately deadlier. 

They have suffered more severe illness and death than other demographic groups. That trend remains relatively consistent.

The most vulnerable among us who face greater risk can get the booster shot. That’s worth celebrating. 

According to the CDC, over 400 million vaccine doses have already been administered.

Although scientists continue to test the vaccines, they are all highly effective in reducing severe illness, hospitalization, and death against COVID-19, if it is contracted.

Not even the more potent Delta variant can stand up to the vaccines in healthy persons. For persons with chronic underlying medical conditions, vaccines and boosters are the best defense available. In cases of immuno-compromised conditions, a booster is essential in raising the level of protection to ward off complications of COVID-19.

The time has long passed for political debates around vaccines and additional precautions, such as masking.


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So many are no longer with us, having succumbed without the benefit of an available vaccine. So many are still dying because, among other reasons, vaccine opponents claim vaccines are “experimental,” or, “no one really knows what effect the shots will have in the long run.” 

Oh, and one I heard more recently is especially rich: Taking the vaccine is taking the mark of the beast.

According to the Shelby County Health Department, more than 90 percent of severe illness and death from COVID-19 and its variants are individuals who were unvaccinated.

That is sobering. 

I hope everyone chooses to take the vaccine. Follow-up with a booster when the allotted time period has passed.

Choose to live.

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