COVID-19 vaccine may not offer much hope for immunocompromised people

High-risk teacher reflects on school year
High-risk teacher reflects on school year
Updated: May. 5, 2021 at 8:21 AM CDT
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FAYETTEVILLE, Tn. (WAFF) - Mrs. Tiffany Roberts teaches math at Fayetteville High School. This year she has taught behind her mask, but also her “teacher screens”.

We first told you about Roberts and her teacher screens in the Fall of 2020. When, mid-pandemic, she decided to come back to teaching, despite her doctor’s best wishes.

“Amazed, grateful, blessed,” Roberts said. “Because I love to teach, I love what I do. I enjoy the students and to be able to get from A to B is a miracle.”

Fayetteville High School Principal Adam McCormick took PVC pipe and some see-through shower curtains and created the teacher screens, all his idea and on his own time.

Roberts said it’s because of him, her students and everyone at FHS that she has been able to stay healthy this school year.

“It really is like family, everybody treats each other that way,” she said. “That’s what’s really cool, we all look out for each other.”

But, as the school year nears an end and the pandemic is winding down for many, it isn’t for her.

“It’s overwhelming and most people, as you said, get the vaccine and they are good to go, life returns to normal and it’s just not like that for me and that’s a hard pill to swallow sometimes,” Roberts said. “It’s a little bitter.”

Roberts said her doctor at Vanderbilt Hospital said she’s not sure how effective the COVID-19 vaccine was for her. Roberts said her doctor told her it’s because of her immunocompromised status and the medicines she has to take.

She said when she got the Hepatitis B vaccine, she had no Hepatitis B antibodies.

“I knew my life wouldn’t be totally normal just because, but I kind of thought it would be a little bit more normal.”

Dr. Ali Hassoun, an infectious disease expert at Huntsville Hospital said what Roberts is going through is expected for people who are immunocompromised and taking medicine for it.

“Whenever they get exposed to any type of infection, they won’t be able to mount a good response,” Hassoun said. “And then if they get vaccinated, for any type of vaccine, also it’s known they are not going to produce the immune response healthy people would.”

Hassoun said this makes herd immunity all the more important for people like Roberts.

“That’s why we encourage everyone to get vaccinated because it’s going to help the whole community as such and it’s going to prevent those transmissions to those vulnerable,” he said.

Hassoun said the closer to herd immunity means the closer to a more normal life for people like Roberts.

“You see a lot of people still saying at home, still locked down, completely because they just don’t feel safe,” he said.

For now, Roberts plans to keep wearing her mask and hoping for herd immunity.

“You know it’s not going to affect you, but If you can step up and help out so it does give those of us in my position a lot more freedom, I would be very grateful,” she said.

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