PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Tony Villiotti had a liver transplant in 2018.
He is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but finds that his immune response may not be as strong due to his medication.
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“If I got COVID, I could be in deep water,” said Villiotti.
Many Americans are excited to see their masks removed, but some people with cancer, autoimmune diseases, and transplants of drugs that affect the immune system aren’t as excited to have so many maskless faces.
“I know if I got COVID,” said Villiotti, “I would be at a higher risk because of the immunosuppression that anti-rejection drugs bring about.”
“Some patients always react faster, some don’t, basically zero,” said Allegheny Health Network cancer specialist Dr. Cyrus Khan. “We don’t really know how well they are protected.”
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It is not yet clear how much of an antibody response someone will need for protection. That is being investigated.
“I still advise them to follow the same protocols they mask and be careful in large gatherings,” said Dr. Khan, who recommends people taking these drugs, masking for at least six more months to get more information collected.
Other studies are looking to see if stopping these drugs or giving a booster dose of the vaccine is helpful.
“What do we do about these patients who are developing? Do they need to be vaccinated again? Do you need any other type of vaccination? And so on. A lot of information is currently missing, ”said Dr. Khan.
However, Villiotti isn’t worried about advancing in a maskless world. After a transplant, his outlook is bold.
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“I made a decision that every day I will live like it could be my last,” he said.