Millions of Americans suffer from chronic autoimmune diseases, which could make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus. While antibodies protect healthy people when they get infected, their bodies do the opposite.
“It attacks our own bodies, like our organs, our heart, the lungs, the brain, the skin. It kind of goes backwards instead of protecting us,” said Ana Sofia Membreno-Stuart, who was diagnosed with Lupus.
While the data is limited, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) found these patients appear to have a higher risk of a serious coronavirus infection.
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“Many patients with rheumatic disease do require hospitalization and have a more severe presentation,” Dr. Iris Navarro-Millan said.
She is an ACR member and a rheumatologist from Weill Cornell Medicine.
The ACR recently released recommendations for patients with autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren, among others, who want to get the COVID-19 vaccine but worry about their bodies’ reaction.
“It’s a very common question and one that is important to hear from their doctor,” Dr. Navarro-Millan said. “We know that happens with patients with the Flu vaccine, the Shingles vaccine, that they tend to feel a little bit not so well, fatigue, and in some instances people do develop a flare.”
But the American College of Rheumatology recommends these patients get the COVID-19 vaccine saying the benefit “outweighs the potential risk” of “flare or the disease worsening.”
“So bottom line is the risk of the flare, even if it’s a bad one that makes you feel bad, it’s still not as bad as getting a serious COVID-19 infection that can put you in the hospital,” Dr. Navarro-Millan said.
For patients who are under immunosuppressant treatments, such as Methotrexate, Tofacitinib and Baricitinib, the ACR recommends suspending the medications for one week after each dose of their vaccination. But they empathize it’s important to consult with their doctor before making any decision.
“The majority of medications used to treat rheumatic diseases do not change on the doses or the frequency of the doses, except for a few,” Dr. Navarro-Millan said.
Experts tell us these changes will help the vaccines be more effective. For more information about these new guidelines and recommendations on medications, you can click here.