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Rheumatoid Arthritis and the COVID-19 Vaccine: What We Know

Posted on December 14, 2020

Article written by
Kelly Crumrin

On Friday, December 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the approval of the first vaccine for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Several other vaccine candidates are currently being developed and tested, and multiple vaccines may become available in the weeks and months ahead. In the days to come, myRAteam will reach out to specialists to find out what this means for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

What myRAteam Members Are Saying About COVID-19 Vaccines

Members of myRAteam share a variety of viewpoints regarding a COVID-19 vaccine. “I can hardly wait for the vaccine to come out,” wrote one member. “I will be first in line!”

Others expressed more caution. “I know for sure I won't take it when it first comes out,” said another. “But if it proves to be safe, then I will be in line to get mine.”

Your rheumatologist knows all the details of your RA, the treatments you take, and other aspects of your health history. This makes them the best source for guidance as you weigh the benefits and risks associated with the vaccine. Many myRAteam members are already talking to their RA care teams about COVID vaccines. “I had a chat with my rheumatology nurse about the vaccine today,” reported a member.

What Is Known About COVID-19 Vaccines?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is reviewing clinical trial data on the COVID-19 vaccine to determine whether to recommend it and, if so, who should take it. The ACIP will consider factors like age, underlying medical conditions, race, and ethnicity. With vaccines on the way, people living with rheumatoid arthritis will need accurate information to make decisions about being vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Here is what is known so far:

  • Most COVID-19 vaccines in development require two doses given 21 or 28 days apart. The first approved vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, requires a second dose 21 days after the first.
  • Side effects, which may be worse after the second dose, have been mostly mild or moderate. These include fatigue, muscle and joint soreness, and pain at the injection site.
  • Vaccines are being tested in thousands of volunteers to prove their safety and effectiveness before gaining approval.
  • Additional safety systems are being put into place to continue monitoring for side effects as vaccines enter public use.
  • Vaccine doses will be free for American citizens, but some health care providers may charge for administering them.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that health care personnel and residents at long-term care facilities receive access to vaccines first.
  • If supplies are limited, older adults and people with specific underlying medical conditions will be considered for early access.
  • The federal government is developing a centralized system to distribute and track COVID-19 vaccines.

What Do People With RA Need To Find Out?

Many questions remain unanswered about COVID-19 vaccines, and myRAteam will be reaching out to RA specialists to find out the following:

  • Will the new COVID-19 vaccines be safe for people with RA?
  • If there are multiple types of COVID-19 vaccines, will they all be equally safe and effective?
  • Will the vaccines be safe and effective for those taking disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), corticosteroids, or other medications?
  • Will people with RA be given priority for vaccinations?
  • What is the earliest you could get access to a vaccine?
  • Is there any benefit to waiting until later to get a vaccine?

Over the weeks to come, myRAteam will provide updates as we learn more about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines for people with rheumatoid arthritis, including those taking DMARDs.

Members of myRAteam discuss their hopes and concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccines. Here are a few recent conversations:

What questions do you have about COVID-19 vaccines? Share them in the comments below.

References

  1. Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine — U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  2. 8 Things to Know about Vaccine Planning — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. FDA could authorize coronavirus vaccine 'within days,' if hearing goes well: HHS secretary — ABC News
  4. Your COVID-19 vaccine questions answered — USA Today
  5. How CDC Is Making COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  6. People with Certain Medical Conditions — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  7. Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Kelly leads the creation of content that educates and empowers people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about her here.

A myRAteam Member said:

I take Methotrexate injection once week- Dr said to omit injection the week prior to vaccination and the week after.

posted 2 days ago

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