Covid vaccination and rheumatic disease—four things to consider

Covid vaccination and rheumatic disease—four things to consider

Are my immunosuppressive drugs a risk? Can I get vaccinated even if I am on treatment? Elsa summarises the advice from the Swedish Rheumatology Association (SRF). The recommendations come from the Swedish Public Health Agency, the American College of Rheumatology, and EULAR.

This text is originally written for a Swedish context, but the recommendations are similar throughout the EU and in the US.

1. People with rheumatic disease are not considered a risk group for severe covid-19 infection. Rheumatologists around the world are studying the risks of severe covid infection in people with rheumatic disease who are taking immunosuppressive drugs. The current assessment is that this group of patients is not a risk group for severe covid-19 infection, so it is not, in itself, a priority for vaccination.

2. Comorbidity may place you in a risk group for other reasons. As rheumatic diseases often cause other conditions, you should bear in mind that those conditions may make you belong to a risk group. For more information, see the Public Health Agency.

3. Rheumatic disease, or its treatment, is not in itself an obstacle to getting vaccinated against covid-19. Vaccination is recommended, although you should speak to your healthcare team to see if there is any reason you should not be vaccinated. If you are being treated with rituximab (often known as Mabthera), you will need to wait at least four months after treatment before you can be vaccinated. The vaccines used are not so-called live vaccines, which means that the virus in the dose is inactivated and cannot multiply in the body.

4. Continue with your anti-rheumatic treatment if you have no signs of infection. Too little is yet known about the impact of anti-rheumatic drugs on coronavirus to provide clear, evidence-based advice. The recommendation, for the time being, is to continue treatment as long as you do not have any symptoms of infection. Otherwise, there is a risk you will suffer a flare-up. If you have any questions about your treatment, please contact your healthcare team.

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