The Covid-19 Vaccine 's efficacy, safety, and availability is an ever evolving situation. Most of us in the US are holding our breath waiting to hear when and how the vaccine will become available. But, if you are living with a chronic illness like lupus, the complexity of the decision isn’t just how fast you can get it, but rather, do you feel safe taking it at all.
This blog is intended to give you some of the latest information so that you can make an educated decision on whether this “shot” seems less like a shot in the dark and more like a shot at a healthy future.
How Soon Might We See A Vaccine?
Today, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the Pfizer and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for people age 16 and older. Though that is exciting news, health experts are warning it's likely the US won't see any deep and significant impacts from vaccinations until well into 2021, even though Canada granted emergency approval for the vaccine after it met safety, efficacy and quality requirements.
Who Will Be The First People To Receive The Vaccine?
Because of the limited supply of the vaccines, people at very high risk, such as health care providers and people who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, will get the vaccine before people whose risk of illness is lower.
Dr. Katherine Poehling, a pediatrics professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, stated without hesitation, “I will take this vaccine and will recommend it to my family members as well.”
Her desire to be vaccinated most likely is fueled by the approximately 16,014,839 cases of coronavirus in the US and at least 297,501 people who have died from Covid-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
After frontline workers, who will be the next in line? Well, The CDC is considering a four-phase plan to distribute vaccines. Phase 1a would be followed by Phases 1b and 1c, which could include other emergency personnel and people with underlying conditions who are at a higher risk of Covid-19 complications and death. That would be when us lupus patients come into play.
Most lupus patients who are on immunosuppressant medications are considered "high-risk" due to immune suppression and low white cell count. But we are not the only ones at risk, more than 40% of US adults have at least one underlying condition that can put them at higher risk of severe complications, according to the CDC. Moreover, if you live with multiple lupus overlap issues, and are on strong immunosuppressants, your risk is increased. Studies are unclear as to how much, but any additional risk has the potential to be dangerous with a virus as unpredictable as Covid-19.
Covid-19 patients with pre-existing conditions — regardless of their age — are 6 times more likely to hospitalized and 12 times more likely to die from the disease than those who had no pre-existing conditions, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. (Source: CNN)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that the groups receiving the vaccine in December, January, February and March will likely include those in "high priority groups."
"I would project by the time you get to April, it will be ... 'open season,' in the sense of anyone, even the non-high priority groups could get vaccinated," -Dr. Anthony Fauci
Will The Vaccine Contain Live Virus?
No. Neither of the top vaccines being fast-tracked contain a live virus. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine use a new technology that relies on messenger RNA (mRNA) from the virus to teach the body how to respond to Covid-19 exposure. (Source: Lupus Foundation of America)
For more information on messenger RNA vaccines and how they work, click here.
Will It Be Safe For People With Lupus?
Bottom line - we don’t know right now exactly how the vaccines will work for people with lupus. However, rest assured that vaccines are studied in thousands of people before they are given to the general public. In fact, many rheumatologists have enrolled in clinical trials of vaccines so they could testify to the safety and efficacy for their patients (read a rheumatologists experience here). Additionally, companies continue to study their safety and effectiveness even after the vaccine is approved. Dr. Don Thomas, who wrote The Lupus Encyclopedia, recently wrote when asked if he would recommend it for his patients who have autoimmune disorders such as lupus, this: “Probably. I suspect the experts will recommend it since all other non-live vaccines are safe for our patients, and this is not a live vaccine.” (Source: www.lupusencyclopedia.com)
The Biggest Threat
The biggest threat to public health may not be any possible side-effects with the vaccine but the apprehension for people to take it. “Manufacturing, distribution, and administration still pose challenges, but the biggest threat remaining may be people’s willingness to get vaccinated,” stated Dr. Susan Bailey, President of the American Medical Association. “To be clear, these vaccines will reduce death and severe illness. They have been rigorously evaluated, and if enough of us roll up our sleeves and get vaccinated, we can eventually reclaim normalcy.”
While You Wait, Wash, And Wear A Mask Up!
You can still be proactive with your health while you wait to receive the vaccine. Follow these public health guidelines to prevent Covid-19:
Stay at home as much as you can.
Avoid high-risk activities such as travel, indoor gatherings with people outside of your household, and large gatherings even if they are outdoors.
When you do go out, wear a mask!
Cough or sneeze into your elbow
Wash your hands thoroughly and often,
And sanitize surfaces.
And most importantly - don't neglect your lupus because you are worried about contracting Covid-19.
Make sure you have at least a 30-day supply of your medications.
Don’t delay any life-saving treatment or emergency care during this pandemic.
Talk with your healthcare provider about your individual level of risk based on your condition, your treatment, and the level of transmission in your community.
Don’t stop taking your medicines or alter your treatment plan without talking to your healthcare provider.
Call your healthcare provider if you think you may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
What To Learn More?
The following CDC vaccine pages are a great place to learn more about how Covid-19 vaccines are being developed and how they work in the body:
*On a personal note - I have been asked numerous times whether I would take the Covid-19 vaccine. My answer, is unequivocally yes. Why? I would much rather take on a low risk of potential (and temporary ) vaccine side-effects than a high-risk of poor disease outcome, or even death.
**All resources provided by this blog are for informational purposes only, not to replace the advice of a medical professional. Kelli encourages you to always contact your medical provider with any specific questions or concerns regarding your illness. All intellectual property and content on this site and in this blog is owned by morethanlupus.com. This includes materials protected by copyright, trademark, or patent laws. Copyright, More Than Lupus 2020.