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Great to see our gov has the right approach finally about COVID!

My Weekly Covid Tests Continue

I’m a doctor, and New Jersey still has an outdated vaccine mandate in place for medical personnel.

By Nicole Saphier, Dir of Imaging, Sloan Kettering Cancer Ctr

March 29, 2023 4:14 pm ET

It’s 2023, and I still have to take a Covid test every week.

When the Covid vaccines became available two years ago, my rheumatologist, dermatologist and primary-care physician all worried that the shot might trigger an inflammatory response that would exacerbate an existing autoimmune disease. I spoke with a member of the Pfizer scientific team, who suggested that with my autoimmune history I should consider a lesser dose of the vaccine. That wasn’t an option at the pharmacies and hospitals that administered the shot, so I reluctantly received the full doses.

Less than two weeks after the second dose, I experienced symptoms including painful nodular scleritis of my eyes and wrenching chest pain from pericarditis. Prior to the vaccine, injectable medications kept the autoimmune disease under control, with occasional flare-ups. After the vaccine, it took six weeks of intense treatment to resolve the pericarditis. Three months after vaccination, I contracted Covid. The symptoms were flulike and didn’t result in the same inflammatory response.

So when the third, “booster” dose became available, I was determined not to get one, even after the state of New Jersey mandated it for medical workers in March 2022. My employer reviewed my medical record and granted an exemption—a condition of which was that I take a weekly Covid test. For 10 months that meant a PCR test. Late in 2022 the hospital system began allowing at-home rapid antigen tests. They are free of charge to patients for now but costly to insurance companies, which may stop covering them when the federal health emergency ends in May.

Events have obviated any justification for vaccine mandates. It was clear by July 2021 that vaccinated people can contract the virus, and the vaccines’ efficacy plummeted when the Omicron variant took hold late that year. Three months after the third dose, boosted and unboosted people transmitted the virus at the same level. This was evident as many of my colleagues were out of work with Covid while I had to provide a negative test to show up to work. My autoimmune symptoms continued to worsen, but the workforce was so diminished from the virus that taking a sick day for a non-Covid reason was a disfavored option.

Testing precautions for surgical patients have been lifted, visitor restrictions have eased, and most places have removed mask mandates inside healthcare settings. When Gov. Phil Murphy signed the health worker booster mandate, he proclaimed: “Over the course of our Covid-19 response, we have always followed the science in decision-making, and this is no different.” If so, it’s past time to end this pointless mandate.

Dr. Saphier is director of breast imaging at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Monmouth, N.J.

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