Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

While millions of people across NSW are celebrating after months of being stuck in the lockdown, the easing of restrictions has brought some excitement to Bernadette Connolly.

Her immune system is more vulnerable to COVID-19 after undergoing kidney and pancreas transplants four years ago due to end-stage renal failure.

This means that she virtually does not receive protection against two doses of vaccine, which is why health authorities have approved booster shots for her and half a million people like her around the country who are immunocompromised.

Mrs Connolly said she planned to follow the lockdown rules for another six weeks to be safe.

“The way I’m going to make progress with this is just to transfer my return to things I enjoy much more slowly than anyone else,” said the 38-year-old from Newcastle.

Two smiling women
Bernadette Connolly, right, with her sister.

Last week, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI) said that people who were immunocompromised may not be fully protected after two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine.

This included people with malignant cancers, those who had received organ transplants or stem cells, people who received treatments that lowered the immune system, and those who took certain steroids.

ATAGI recommended the use of a third “booster” shot to bring the level of immune response “as close as possible to the general population”.

“Protection against three primary doses in severely immunocompromised individuals may still be lower than the general population,” the advisory body said in a statement.

“People should continue risk-reducing strategies such as mask use and social distancing, even after receiving a third dose.”

The program is rolling out this week, but some people may have to wait months.


A woman smiling while wearing a hat
Bernadette Connolly had kidney and pancreas transplants in 2016.(Supplied)

Ms Connolly said the earliest she could get her booster shot was in mid-November.

“I think that I will feel far more protected then,” she said.

For now, she will keep working from home and maintain social distancing and wearing a face mask.

She said she wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a hair salon or an indoor gym.

But despite having to wait to enjoy the greater freedoms on offer, she remained upbeat.

“I guess I’ve really applied that during this lockdown period and just gone with it.”

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