By Julie Eller, Co-host of the Live Yes! With Arthritis Podcast
Rebecca Gillett and I just recorded a new episode for the Live Yes! With Arthritis podcast – reflecting on all the time that has passed and all the new things we now know about COVID-19 and arthritis. It is wild to think about how much has changed in a year.
Just 12 months ago, I was someone who relaxed on the weekends by eating lunch in a bustling restaurant with loud friends, recapping a busy work week where I bounced from meeting to meeting all over Washington, DC – perhaps even taking a quick trip to Atlanta to record a podcast with Rebecca. Now I am someone who Zooms in to share updates with colleagues and friends, quietly combats screen fatigue, takes brisk Jane Eyre style walks and anxiously awaits my turn for access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
We are a people changed. We have flipped the switch from people who log a traditional nine to five to those who are now working late-night hours to free up their days for more time to teach their elementary-aged child their times tables or troubleshoot problems with their Zoom classroom. People whose boundaries between work and home life have been blurred – taking breaks between meetings to grab 10 minutes of yoga with their partner to accommodate for the body aches their less-than-ergonomic kitchen counter workstation offers. People who have been pushed to their limits, serving as first responders and essential workers, exposing themselves to great risk each day for the sake of keeping our communities safe and whole. People who are grieving all that we have lost to this disease, the death toll, the economic downturn, our in-person connection to community.
Like many of you, I am tired of this pandemic. One year later, we are STILL learning to navigate with the weight of COVID-19 on our shoulders. It can be hard to feel hopeful. But our shifting lifestyles are not the only things that have changed over the course of this trying year. The landscape of what we know now about this disease, and how we overcome it, has shifted dramatically as well. While we still have so many questions, we are now armed with information about public health measures that really work for combatting this contagious and devastating disease.
We know that by keeping our social distance, by masking up (double masking up these days!) and vigilantly washing our hands, while we sing the refrain of our favorite song, that we can mitigate some of the risks of contracting or transmitting COVID-19. We also know that our scientists are leading the way, arming us with new vaccines, therapeutics and treatment plans to combat this disease.
A year ago, Rebecca and I recorded our first podcast about this emerging pandemic, and we had nothing but questions. Our expert guests provided us with the best answers at the time, but we didn’t have much certainty about how to respond. I felt resilient and hopeful this month, when Rebecca and I had a chance to revisit the conversation for an update on what we know about COVID and arthritis today, and reflect on how much that has changed and how many of our questions we now have answers to.
One of the most critical questions that patients in our community continue to have is about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for people living with immunocompromised forms of arthritis. As researchers worked to produce the first vaccines, individuals in our community were not included in the initial study cohort. That means we don’t have data yet that specifically outlines the risks people living with chronic conditions that compromise immune response face in taking one of the COVID-19 vaccines.
But the Arthritis Foundation is working together to recruit patients for an important study with researchers at Johns Hopkins University that can change that. This important study hopes to learn how the COVID-19 vaccines affect people living with chronic immune-compromising conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis. This knowledge will lead to a better understanding of how effectively the vaccine can help these patients get immunity. To learn more about the study and see if you may be eligible to participate, please go to: vaccineresponse.org.
I know there are so many questions and so many changes that we have experienced as we learn to live through this pandemic. Join Rebecca and me to talk about all we’ve learned in this latest episode of the Live Yes! With Arthritis podcast.