The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimate that as many as 130 million Americans could have a pre-existing condition -- that's half of all non-elderly adults in the United States.
That status may impact your COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in places like Pinal and Coconino counties here in Arizona, but the stigmas and shame surrounding that could have a negative impact on the vaccination process.
Asthma, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes -- these are all things that would be considered pre-existing conditions. If you have one, it impacts your health every single day, but even more during this COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, these conditions could play a big role in whether or not you're able to recover.
"We have been studying this disease for over a year," explains Dr. Piyush Gupta. "And we should know that it's no secret to anyone that those with preexisting conditions have a two- to three-fold increase of mortality due to COVID. That's pretty significant. Luckily, we have multiple vaccines that prevent severe illness hospitalizations, and death, including those with pre-existing conditions. That's why it's so important. We want to prevent hospitalizations and deaths from everyone with COVID."
In short, vaccinating people with pre-existing conditions not only save lives but also puts less stress on our healthcare system. But if both those things are true, why is there still a stigma about having a pre-existing condition and getting vaccinated before others?
"One of the side effects someone may experience is the actual guilt of receiving the vaccine before others. For those of you that may be feeling that guilt, please don't. If you have the opportunity to get the vaccine, please get it. Don't hesitate to wait. There's going to be enough vaccines for everyone. And you're just as important as everyone else."
Dr. Gupta also says if you're questioned about why you were able to get the vaccine and you don't want to disclose anything about your health, simply say, "I'm in one of the eligible groups," and don't feel like you have to elaborate beyond that. Remember, it's your health and your story to tell.