The Millions of People Stuck in Pandemic Limbo
By Ed Yong
February 16, 2022
Two years later, COVID-19 is still all around us, everywhere, and millions of people like Landon are walking around with a compromised immune system. A significant proportion of them don’t respond to COVID vaccines, so despite being vaccinated, many are still unsure whether they’re actually protected—and some know that they aren’t. Much of the United States dropped COVID restrictions long ago; many more cities and states are now following. That means policies that protected Landon and other immunocompromised people, including mask mandates and vaccination requirements, are disappearing, while accommodations that benefited them, such as flexible working options, are being rolled back.
This isn’t a small group. Close to 3 percent of U.S. adults take immunosuppressive drugs, either to treat cancers or autoimmune disorders or to stop their body from rejecting transplanted organs or stem cells. That makes at least 7 million immunocompromised people—a number that’s already larger than the populations of 36 states, without even including the millions more who have diseases that also hamper immunity, such as AIDS and at least 450 genetic disorders.