The search for the COVID-19 vaccine has been especially stressful for cancer patients, since they’re considered high risk.
They are left having to decide whether the vaccine will do more harm than good.
Tonya Parrotta knows how to fight during this unprecedented time, especially through a worldwide pandemic.
This West Palm Beach mother was diagnosed with lung cancer non-small cell, battling it for 10 years now.
“It’s an incurable cancer,” Parrotta said. “For somebody like me, I don’t have two functioning lungs.”
The chemotherapy lowers her immune system, putting her at higher risk for serious problems if she catches COVID-19.
“For me, I’m scared," Parrotta said. "What’s it going to do to my body? What is it going to do long term? Is it going to make my cancer grow out of control because it’s going to mess with my immune system?"
This week, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says all states should vaccinate not only seniors, but those under the age of 65 with underlying health conditions.
That makes people like Parrotta eligible.
She hesitant since nearly all vaccine trials, like the FDA approved Pfizer and Moderna, excluded people being treated with cancer due to their compromised immune system.
“It’s almost like you’re playing Russian roulette,” Parrotta said.
But infectious disease Dr. David Dodson of Good Samaritan hospital says they should consider rolling up her sleeve.
“The ultimate goal is to decrease mortality. You want to get the protection to the people who are at higher risk of dying, and that’s the immuno-compromised people,” Dr. Dodson said.
He says the stakes are too high to not get vaccinated.
"Some people are okay and trusting the vaccine," Parrotta said. "Some people I know are really scared for the same reasons. Picking one of the two battles, what are you going to do?”