By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Steve Whitehead of Dallas has just so much to live for… or should we say so many? Grandkids. A half dozen of them that COVID kept away for too long.

Steve Whitehead of Dallas (courtesy: CBS 11 News)

“We didn’t see em at all… couldn’t hug ’em at all, might stand out in the front yard and wave at them across the yard,” recalls Whitehead. “During the early days couldn’t see ’em at all. That was tough.” So Whitehead says he needed no arm twisting to get his COVID vaccine. “It was a huge relief, we had tears in our eyes.”

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And that relief, he says, goes for the first, the second and now a third vaccine recommended for the immune compromised.
“I got it the very first day it was available,” says Whitehead, “so I was not hesitant at all. Haven’t had any side effects with any of the three shots. My wife had flu like symptoms for about two days…[but] she recovered and is doing fine.”

Now, doctors are working to alert others who might need that third vaccine. “Solid organ transplant, cancer patients getting treatment and a lot of autoimmune disease patients,” explains Dr. Susan Mathai, Advanced Lung Disease and Transplant Pulmonology at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. According to Dr. Mathai, the third recommended vaccine is different from a “booster” in that the shot is needed to give the immunocompromised the same level of protection that most patients receive with a course of two vaccines. She also stresses that the unvaccinated continue to put themselves and others at risk…pointing out that the current surge of hospitalizations could have been avoided. And then there’s the concern for the medically fragile.

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“You may not know that someone who is immunocompromised is in your life,” cautions Dr. Mathai, “there’s not a big sign they wear that says ‘I’m immune compromised’, so you may be putting people at risk in your family and in your community without even knowing it.”

Dr. Mathai says patients should get the same vaccine formula they received previously– either Pfizer or Moderna– and recommends consulting your physician if unsure about whether a third vaccine is needed. For those who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the company says it is working with the FDA, CDC, and other health agencies on how to proceed with additional doses of its vaccine.

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“The emotional benefits of being able to get out and get your life back to some sense of normalcy is well worth it,” shares Whitehead, who adds that he’ll roll up his sleeves as many times as necessary to be able to hug his grandchildren. “Absolutely! if there’s a round 4, 5, 6, I’ll be in line to get them, first day,” says Whitehead.