LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s mask mandate was lifted earlier this month. For vaccinated people, it was a step toward normalcy. For people who are immunocompromised, it’s a bit more complicated.
“It’s going to make me feel like I don’t want to go out anymore,” said Eddie Byers. “It makes me want to stay in the house.”
Eddie Byers is immunocompromised and hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet. He says rolling back the state’s mask mandate makes being around other people feel even riskier.
Peter Gulick, a professor at Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, works closely with immunocompromised patients. He says vaccine efficacy is limited for many of them.
“The vaccine is very, very effective in most individuals, but in the immunocompromised patient, those that may be getting chemotherapy agents, maybe getting corticosteroids, maybe getting different infusions, they may not respond to the vaccine 94 or 95 percent,” he said.
More than 131,000 Ingham County residents have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Ingham County Health Department. That’s roughly 54 percent of the county’s population.
Gulick says that the rate needs to be much higher to properly accommodate immunocompromised people.
“It's not like we have 70 or 80 percent vaccinations out there now,” he said. “We’re still not at that point, and so I think we have to be more cautious in crowds where these immunocompromised patients aren’t sure what levels of vaccination are present.”
Gulick recommends that immunocompromised people continue to use caution despite COVID-19 restrictions easing.
“If you remove the mask mandate, that might put some of these individuals at somewhat of a risk,” he said. “I think they should be aware of that and probably continue to wear masks if they’re in crowds and areas where they might be exposed.”
Byers says he plans on doing just that.
“I’m going to be safe no matter what,” he said. “I’m going to have my mask on.”