A Tale of Two Warriors: COVID-19 Vaccines and Sickle Cell

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Since the COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for sickle cell warriors, there have been a lot of questions about the vaccine. Sick Cells sat down virtually with two sickle cell warriors who received both doses of the vaccine to talk about their experience.

For Terrance Hill, from Chicago, Illinois, it was a church member who helped him get signed up to get the vaccine. It was after Sunday School that he received a call from his teacher to come to the pharmacy at Jewel Osco because there was no line. In a Zoom interview, Terrance told Sick Cells that he received the Moderna vaccine from the pharmacist. He decided to get the vaccine because his doctor recommended it, especially when it opened up to sickle cell warriors.

Sarai Santiago, from Bronx, New York, received the Pfizer shot at her local hospital, where she goes for her hematologist and other doctors. She decided to get vaccinated as soon as she found out the hospital had the vaccine. Afterwards, she sat for 30 minutes to be observed and made sure to hydrate, a necessity for any SCD warrior, but even more important before and after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. 

While side effects varied, Terrance only had stiffness and swelling in his arm for a few days, like other vaccines. He had the same reaction for both doses. Sarai says, “when I got home I was feeling weak” and her arm was sore for a few days. She wasn’t able to attend meetings or help around the house for a few days, but recovered after that.

“For the warriors who are going to get the vaccine, make sure you educate yourselves, make sure you speak to your doctors…find a place that is comfortable” Sarai suggests. She attended COVID-19 vaccine seminars, talked to her hematologist, and asked family members who are in the healthcare field about the vaccine.

While not everyone may have access to healthcare workers like that, there are a lot of resources available online. Sick Cells has an advocacy map to find local SCD organizations for help and resources. Talking to your doctor is also a great way to get your questions answered.

Sarai’s final words are “I suggest all the sickle cell warriors to get vaccinated so we can stay healthy and stay alive and go back to doing what we want to do, especially traveling and the SCDAA conferences, we miss those!”

Check out Project SCoviD on Instagram (@project_scovid) to learn more about COVID-19 and vaccines. Sarai and Terrance’s stories will also be released as audio stories – you don’t want to miss them!

Written by Rafia, Sick Cells Medical Writer Intern. First Year Medical Student at University of Illinois – Chicago

The CDC and SCDAA MARAC recommend that all sickle cell warriors receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect SCD warriors and their families against COVID-19.


Published August 4,  2021

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