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People living with sickle-cell disease have access to COVID-19 vaccine

Lena Harvey with her family
Posted at 1:35 AM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 13:06:59-05


UPDATE: People living with Sickle-cell disease are now eligible to sign-up for the vaccine. Patients at the Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center should have received letters Friday saying their medical providers put their names in a system that will get them a link to sign-up for the vaccine.

ORIGINAL STORY: The FDA could soon approve another COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

If that happens, the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be distributed across the country as soon as next week. That could determine when Indiana expands vaccine eligibility to the next group, Hoosiers age 50-59 and those who have certain conditions. That includes anyone 16 and older with sickle cell disease. Lena Harvey will become eligible once the next vaccine expansion happens.


"I'm just ready to resume some sort of normalcy, so I can get back to being the wife, mom and advocate that I am," Harvey said.

Harvey calls herself a sickle cell warrior, someone who spreads awareness about the disease and the impact it has on those who have it. Throughout this pandemic, Harvey has had to be extremely careful.

"I have been at home all year since this started. I have been here making sure myself and my son are safe from the coronavirus," Harvey said.

Sickle-cell disease impacts red blood cells which carry oxygen throughout the body. Those with sickle cell have a higher chance of ending up in the hospital and dying from the virus according to the CDC.

Dr. Emily Meier is a sickle cell disease specialist at the Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center. That's where Harvey has been going for treatment over the past 15 years.

"The thing we worry about most with COVID infection is that it can cause long-lasting lung disease and lung infection, pulmonary hypertension in the blood vessels of the lungs," Dr. Meier said.

The list of things that could go wrong is long. That's why Dr. Meier and Harvey say they were excited to hear the state will soon allow those with the disease to get vaccinated.

"I don't want to live my life cooped up any longer just because I don't have access to a vaccine," Harvey said.

Getting vaccinated and sharing her experience is important not just for sickle-cell but also because Harvey is a Black woman. Numerous studies and surveys have shown Black people are hesitant about getting vaccinated because of past medical mistreatment of African-Americans. Both COVID-19 and sickle cell impact Black people at high rates.

"We have to put our health and priorities first. We cannot act on fear or what has happened in the past. We can't allow that to keep pulling us back," Harvey said.

ISDH connects people with providers to assist with vaccine sign-up

The Indiana State Department of Health has created a process using a network of known providers to assist with enrollment for the vaccine for patients.

Eligible patients will receive an email or text message and a letter from the Indiana State Department of Health. The email or text message will prompt you to schedule an appointment to get a vaccine. Letters will provide a number you can call to schedule an appointment to get a vaccine.

When you schedule your appointment, you can choose where you want to go to get your vaccine. Vaccines are available at local hospitals and clinics. The Martin Center will also be hosting a vaccine clinic in March. You can find more information about the Martin Center clinic by calling the Martin Center at 317-927-5158.