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She Works Hard for the Antibodies

Aka my journey to getting two shots in tuchus

One of the most fun parts about having multiple sclerosis these past two years has been the abject fear of dying. 👍🏽

A picture of the shark from Find Nemo that says "Brains are friends, not food."

For those not in the know, having MS means my immune system is too dumb to realize that my brain and spine are friends, not food. The only way to get my own damn cells to stop cannibalizing some of my most important bits is to unilaterally wipe out a key part of my immune system, my B cells.

For the first 30 years of my life, I didn’t even know I had B cells. I knew about T-cells from HIV/AIDS (aka that song from RENT) but who knew there were other ones? Turns out they’re slightly key for many things, such as, to throw out a random example, learning how to fight viruses from a vaccine.

I remember how excited I was to get the covid vaccine. I had been more cautious than anyone I knew for the first almost year of covid. We were completely utterly locked down, paralyzed with fear of infection, long covid, and legit dying. Even the act of fighting off covid could throw me into an MS relapse. So I spent hours and hours dreaming about what it would be like to get the vaccine. I pictured myself crying in the chair—I, a person who would rather live out any of my anxiety dreams[1] than cry in public—overwhelmed by the feeling of finally being safe.

I became eligible for the vaccine a mere two weeks before my twice-a-year-B-cell-eradication, aka my MS treatment. I was ecstatic to finally be able to get the vaccine, but my neurologist crushed all of my hopes and dreams.

You can’t get the vaccine (or any vaccine) for at least three months after the treatment, and five months is better.

The vaccine works by teaching your B cells how to fight covid. Which requires B cells. My treatment kills B cells every 6 months. So I needed to get the vaccine when I had my best chance of having any B cells, aka as far after the treatment as possible. I had to wait three more months to get vaccinated.

Reader, I am unashamed to say I wept like a very hungry baby. Not in public though, because of course I was not allowed in public.

I waited my three months while everyone else I knew got the jab. Remember when Instagram was filled with vax card selfie after vax card selfie? I was so happy for everyone else, and so fucking sad for myself. It was horrible.

A collage of people taking selfies with their vaccine cards
Picture from NPR

But worse was what scientists were discovering in those three months.

The vaccine was probably going to do jack shit for me.

The B cell genocide works too well. There are no survivors to learn from the vaccine. They might as well be shooting me up with Benadryl, cause it’ll make me sleepy but do essentially nothing else[2].

Still, of course I got my two vaccine shots. And then a third when it was available. And then a fourth. My veins are 90% sparkling Pfizer, but the science said there was a less than 30% chance of me developing any antibodies, and a low probability that those antibodies would be enough to do anything. So even post-4th-jab I still consider myself “unvaccinated,” which means the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” is still, uh…a fucking pandemic for me, thanks!

A few weeks ago, my “multiple sclerosis vaccine” google alert led me to an article that talked about this new treatment of synthetic antibodies called Evusheld. First of all, real missed opportunity to be “shield.” Why “sheld”?? You were so close!! Secondly, I’ve learned that no one knows how to pronounce it. The nurses/schedulers on the phone and I both just make some weird sounds at each other until we mutually agree on a series of vowel sounds to stand in for this drug. Ev-you-sheld. Ev-oo-shield. Ev-OOOO-shald. Ee-vee-ooo-sheld. My best advice: pick your favorite and use it with confidence.

However you pronounce it, essentially it’s synthetic antibodies. No B cells needed! Theoretically. It’s supposed to be about 70% effective, so not as good as the vaccine but way better than au naturale. How does it work? I don’t know! Real talk: I majored in “Racial Injustice in Society and Schools” and I write gay romantic comedies. Nothing in my life has prepared me to understand how synthetic antibodies work, but I know that I WANT THEM IN MY BODY ASAP[3].

I emailed my neurologist basically asking, “Hey can I get this? What is it? Can I have it?” She said SURE! Emphasis added by me to add some emotion to this climactic moment! I’ve read that people across the country are scrambling to find somewhere with the shot in stock, but also that most doses are sitting unused.

It’s all going so great, having politicians in charge of things instead of public health experts and community leaders, hmm??

I understand why most doses are going unused. No one told me about Evusheld. My doctor didn’t reach out to offer it to me. I had to set up a google alert, happen to open it, read the whole article, talk about the article with my wife who adorably has the same google alert, have her say “wait though what’s this drug he’s talking about,” look it up, and get in touch with my doctor.

After getting the green light from my neuro, I met with a pharmacist in her office for an intake appointment where she basically read me the FDA fact sheet for Ev-ooo-sheld. I asked her if after I got the drug I could consider myself vaccinated, and if I could see small groups of vaccinated friends indoors without masks. She said no to both because doctors don’t like to get sued, but to be perfectly honestly I cannot keep living like this, so I’m going to see a very small number of fucking triple-boosted people inside with no masks. LIVING LARGE.

Then I had to go get my antibodies tested. This was exciting! I’ve read the odds of whether or not I have them for so long, and I didn’t realize you could basically prescribe the test for yourself?? But you can! It only costs $6?? I definitely would have done it ages ago if I’d known. But now, after two years of molding my body to perfectly fit my couch, I am pleased to announce that I officially have NO ANTIBODIES.

That's right! After four glorious shots of Pfizer, I have none! My results say <0.80, and I’m not sure if this test was a pass/fail scale or if it used the whole scale from .8 to 2,500, but either way…I Got Four Shots of Pfizer and All I’ve Got to Show For Them Are The Selfies.

Four pictures of me with bandaids on my arm after each vaccine shot
Be jealous of my band-aid game

So on Friday I’m going to get Evusheld, which, by the way, is administered via SHOTS IN THE BUTT. Two simultaneous shots in the butt, one per cheek. So picture two nurses standing over you, counting to three, and plunging syringes into your butt at the same time!!

All this to have less than able bodied people can have from three shots in the arm, spaced out over 7 months?? Which I have also received?? Absolutely fucking wild, but here we are.

Wish me, my synthetic buddies, and my butt luck. Happy National MS Awareness Week!

[1] I’m in a play and I’ve never seen the script, performing a dance I don’t know the steps to, taking a math test after ditching all semester, GOING ON A TRIP AND I HAVE NOT YET PACKED!!!!! [2] Have you ever had Benadryl straight into the veins?? Fucking WILD. The immense waves of sleepiness are out of this world!! [3] A list of other things that I don’t know how they work: cars, airplanes, egg whites, the radio, the stock market, this computer, the human digestive system, electricity.

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