Orange County

Central Florida transplant recipient gets third COVID-19 vaccine shot ahead of expected approval

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Johnny Diggz, 50, is a fighter.

He had end-stage liver disease and was hospitalized in Orlando at the end of 2019. In May 2020, he received his liver transplant.

“I went in with one world, and I came out a few weeks later, and the world looked completely different,” he said.

Diggz had a new liver and a new way of living.

READ: FDA set to OK booster shots for people with compromised immune systems

Organ transplant recipients have to take medications to suppress their immune systems so that their bodies do not reject the new organ.

Catching COVID-19, Diggz said, would be “extremely dangerous.”

That’s why, without hesitation, Diggz received the Moderna vaccine and his second shot in February.

READ: Coronavirus: Is Moderna more effective than Pfizer against the delta variant?

Diggz has been fully vaccinated for months now. But with the more contagious delta variant spreading, he learned other countries were allowing people to get a third shot.

He asked his doctors. They said it was possibly a route to go, but neither the CDC nor the FDA had recommended that, so their hands were tied.

Diggz did his own research and heard about other organ transplant recipients going around the system and getting another COVID-19 shot.

READ: ‘We are in a state of emergency’: Orlando surgeon says hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients

Last week, Diggz decided to get one himself.

He got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, an adenovirus vaccine, which is different from the Moderna he first got, which is an messenger RNA vaccine.

Diggz said he hasn’t told his doctors yet, but will next week.

The FDA is expected to OK booster shots for the immunocompromised. But Diggz said he couldn’t wait and took matters into his own hands, which is frowned upon by the FDA.

READ: Coronavirus: CDC recommends pregnant people get vaccinated against COVID-19

Diggz said he feels good and does not regret what he did because he’s a fighter, and said he has to fight for himself and his family.

“I’d like to protect myself, and I saw a route that made me be able to get it, and I took it,” Diggz said.

Adam Poulisse,

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.