Many people are clamoring to get the coronavirus vaccine, but states are still prioritizing limited groups to get the shot first. While there are a number of underlying conditions that could qualify you for early access in select states, you might be wondering how urgent your particular case it. If so, take note: Experts are warning that people with one common medical condition should get the vaccine as soon as possible. Read on to find out if you are in this group, and for more vaccine guidance, Dr. Fauci Just Said Don't Take This Medication With the COVID Vaccine.
People with rheumatoid conditions should get the vaccine as soon as possible.
On Feb. 8, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) released guidance for those with rheumatoid conditions on receiving the coronavirus vaccine. "Autoimmune and inflammatory rheumatic disease (AIIRD) patients should be prioritized for vaccination before the non-prioritized general population of similar age and sex," the ACR advises. However, according to The New York Times, more than 30 states are still only vaccinating essential workers and those above the age of 65. And for more vaccine news, The Pfizer CEO Says This Is How Often You'll Need a COVID Vaccine.
These patients could have more complications if they get COVID.
As WebMD explains, most rheumatoid-related conditions are inflammatory or autoimmune diseases that are linked to problems with one's immune system. Common forms of rheumatoid conditions include rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. According to Mehmet Oz, MD, a cardiothoracic survey specialist and host of The Dr. Oz Show, these diseases affect how your body fights off infections, like the coronavirus. And limited data appears to show that "patients with autoimmune and inflammatory conditions are at a higher risk for developing severe COVID-19 and hospitalization compared to the general population, and have worse outcomes associated with infection," Oz says. And for more coronavirus risk factors, If You've Had This Common Illness, You're More Likely to Die From COVID.
The medications used to treat these conditions may also put patients at higher risk.
Patients with specific rheumatoid conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, may be prescribed corticosteroids—which are steroids meant to relive symptoms—or other autoimmune suppressing medications. Unfortunately, a major side effect of these medications is that they can leave patients "more susceptible to infection," says Spencer Kroll, MD, a board-certified internal medicine specialist. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the use of corticosteroids "can weaken a person's immune system," which would put them at a higher risk of getting severely sick from COVID. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Doctors may alter treatments for those with rheumatoid conditions when they get the vaccine.
The ACR does include a few recommendations for treatment and medication modifications in their guidance. As Eliza Chakravarty, MD, a rheumatologist and immunologist at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, explained to Healthline, some doctors may choose to hold medications for a week after vaccination in order to maximize a person's immune response to the vaccine. However, Oz says that these recommendations "should not replace clinical judgement," and doctors should make decisions based on individual patients. "A conversation should be had with your physician to discuss what would be best for you," he says. And for more on medications and the coronavirus vaccine, If You Take This Common Medication, Talk to a Doctor Before Your Vaccine.
There is no reason people with rheumatoid conditions should not get the vaccine.
Leann Poston, MD, a licensed physician and health advisor for Invigor Medical, says there may be concerns about getting the COVID vaccine among patients with rheumatoid conditions. However, the ACR states that the only reason someone should not get a vaccine is if they knowingly have an allergy to the vaccine components or have a serious reaction to the first dose. According to Poston, the only issue patients with rheumatoid conditions may face is that the vaccine may not work as well on those taking immunomodulating medications. But overall, "some protection is better than none at all," she says. And for more on life after the vaccine, The CDC Says You Don't Have to Do This Anymore Once You're Vaccinated.
No reports have shown increased vaccine side effects for people with rheumatoid conditions.
Kroll also says that "people with rheumatoid conditions have expressed concern that the vaccine could worsen their symptoms." After all, the CDC says the COVID vaccine can cause side effects that include muscle pains, fever, and joint aches, all of which are also symptoms of various rheumatoid conditions. "So far, with tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccines administered in the U.S., there has not been an observed increased rate of these symptoms in rheumatologic disease patients," he says. "Clearly the benefit of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine exceeds the risk to any patient who may at be at increased risk for complications from actual coronavirus infection." And for more on vaccine side effects, Dr. Fauci Said He Had Pain in These 2 Places After the COVID Vaccine.