Even though Keli Thorn is fully vaccinated, she said she still worries about contracting COVID-19.
"It's always in the back of my mind," she told WCPO. Six months ago, she received a kidney donation — a gift from a stranger she and her husband, Aaron Thorn, had waited more than a year to find. Now, she's waiting for new advice from her doctor on whether she should receive another dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
"Even though I'm vaccinated, my immune is still weakened," she said. "You just still worry, like, what if I catch it from this? Or going to the store? Touching this?"
Medical experts said the Food and Drug Administration could soon authorize extra doses of the shot for people with weakened immune systems. Chemotherapy patients and transplant survivors like Keli Thorn would fall into that category.
"For you and I, mask or not, we're vulnerable," said Aaron Thorn. "But Keli is 100 times more vulnerable, and that scares me. We are living in crazy times with all this virus running around. I'm very nervous."
Dr. Stephen Feagins, chief clinical officer for Mercy Health, said people like Keli Thorn with compromised immune systems could require more doses for the COVID-19 vaccine to create enough antibodies to protect against the virus.
While Feagins said doesn't expect FDA officials to make COVID vaccine boosters available to the general public until next year, some local providers have been boosting doses in cases like Keli Thorn's and that even testing for antibody levels could be a less reliable approach than just administering another dose.
"Those are unique cases through which we're almost going to do compassionate use," he said. "Several studies have shown that the antibody test really isn't available, accurate and useful. Just give a dose of the vaccine..."