COVID-19 FAQs: Vaccines
Get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines, including the effectiveness and safety for people with arthritis.
News, scientific understanding and guidelines about COVID-19 are continually evolving. As such, please note that some information on this page may have changed since its original publication date.
Question: Which vaccines have been FDA approved and what does that mean?
A: On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people 16 years and older, after granting it emergency use authorization (EUA) last December. The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine is the first COVID-19 vaccine on the market to be given full FDA approval.
The vaccine is still authorized for emergency use in children ages 12 to 15, and Pfizer-BioNTech is working to collect more data to submit for full approval in that age group. Trials for vaccine safety in children under the age of 12 are still ongoing and the vaccine is not yet recommended for those in that age group.
FDA approval is expected to make it easier for employers, universities, the military and other institutions to mandate vaccination. It also gives doctors more flexibility to prescribe third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to patients. However, federal officials discourage seeking extra shots until the FDA grants EUA for booster shots, which is expected in September (see below for more information about boosters).
In the meantime, health experts say that FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doesn’t undermine the safety and efficacy of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. All three vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous and scientific standards for EUA, says FDA Commissioner, Janet Woodcock, MD.
Rather, FDA approval is another important step in reassuring the public that vaccines are safe and effective.
"The American College of Rheumatology applauds the FDA for prioritizing the vaccine approvals and recognizing the unique needs of the immunocompromised over the past week. Real-world data has shown that patients with rheumatic diseases have worse outcomes than the general population when becoming ill with COVID-19," says David Karp, MD, president of the American College of Rheumatology. " We are hopeful the FDA’s formal approval of the Pfizer vaccine will help Americans feel more confident in the safety and efficacy of mRNA technology and will encourage them to pursue vaccination to reduce their risk of developing COVID-19 disease."
Moderna submitted its application for full approval in June, about a month after Pfizer-BioNTech, and regulators are still reviewing data. Approval could take several weeks but is expected. Johnson & Johnson is expected to appply for full FDA approval soon.
Question: Will I need a booster of the vaccine if I'm immunocompromised?
A: On August 12, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for people with weakened immune systems.
On August 13, a CDC advisory committee voted to recommend that certain immunocompromised individuals receive an additional mRNA shot, including rheumatology patients being actively treated with high-dose corticosteroids, alkylating agents, antimetabolites, tumor-necrosis factor (TNF) blockers, and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory.
The panel suggested that the third dose match the vaccine previously administered, if possible. That is, those ages 12 and older who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, should stick to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for their third shot, and vice versa for those 18 and older who received the Moderna shot. Third doses of mRNA vaccines should be administered at least 28 days after completion of the initial mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series.
The decision does not address patients who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. At the time, the CDC says there is not enough data about immunocompromised patients who got Johnson & Johnson to make a recommendation for an extra dose of that particular vaccine. Likewise, no determination has been made on the safety of receiving one of the mRNA vaccines if a patient initially received the Johnson & Johnson shot.
Data shows that immunocompromised individuals, such as cancer patients, organ transplant patients and those on immunosuppressive medications, experience blunted vaccine response. But vaccine response in immunocompromised patients can vary, depending on the medications they take and the health conditions they have.
“Not all medications that our patients take have been shown to have significant effects on responses to vaccination. Patients should ask their provider if they are likely to see a beneficial effect from additional vaccination,” says American College of Rheumatology president, David Karp, MD, PhD. “Luckily, we have not seen any safety signals in patients with autoimmune and rheumatic diseases from the COVID-19 vaccines, so there should be no concern for the third dose.”
It also remains unclear how much protection a third dose provides immunocompromised individuals. As such, patients who receive a third dose should still take extra precautions, such as physical distancing and wearing masks, says Karp.
There are also concerns with enhancing immunity in immunosuppressed individuals, including triggering flares in those with autoimmune disease, Dorry Segev, MD, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins University, told the New York Times.
The decision to get a third shot is one that should be made in close consultation with your doctor.
Question: When will boosters be available for everyone?
A: As evidence mounts that vaccine effectiveness decreases with time, the Biden administration has decided that most Americans should get an additional shot eight months after being fully vaccinated. As many as 5 million Americans could be eligible for a booster shot as early as mid-September.
The FDA has already authorized the use of additional shots in immunocompromised individuals and certain rheumatologic patients (see question above), but the policy to roll out boosters to the general population will require additional FDA authorization.
If given the greenlight by the FDA, those who were vaccinated first and who are most vulnerable, including nursing home residents, health care workers and emergency care workers, will be among the first eligible to receive additional doses. People 65 and older are expected to be eligible next, followed by the general population who were mostly vaccinated in the spring. People will likely be advised to seek an additional dose of the vaccine they originally received.
It’s also likely that the plan will extend to those who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Johnson & Johnson is submitting data from a clinical trial of participants given two doses to the FDA later this month.
Health experts advise against getting a dose before it is recommended or without the supervision of a doctor.
Question: Do the COVID-19 vaccines protect against the variants?
A: Data shows that the vaccines on the market provide strong protection against the COVID-19 variants, including the newest delta variant. However, maximum protection doesn’t kick in until two weeks after the full vaccine regimen is completed.
Immunocompromised individuals may experience a blunted response to current vaccines but will experience some protection and the Arthritis Foundation strongly advocates for vaccination. Fully vaccinated individuals who are immunocompromised may want to stick with a more cautious approach and continue to wear masks in public settings, says Gregory Poland, MD, director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. Likewise, the CDC revised its guidelines stating that even fully vaccinated people should wear a mask in public indoors settings in parts of the country where the virus is surging.
What experts are most concerned with is the spread of the delta variant in areas of the country who have the lowest vaccination rates. This could prompt a surge of cases, hospitalizations and deaths that could otherwise be prevented with vaccines.
Question: Will my arthritis drug reduce the COVID-19 vaccine response?
A: Although research is limited, there is evidence that disease modifying drugs used for autoimmune arthritis may reduce the response of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. No research on the adenovirus J&J vaccine has been reported.
Based on a small study of 133 fully vaccinated individuals taking immunosuppressive medications, antibody levels and virus neutralization was three times lower than in individuals not taking these medications. The study has not been peer reviewed.
However, study coauthor Alfred Kim MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Division of Rheumatology, Washington University School of Medicine noted in an interview with Reuters that, “most patients in the study were able to mount antibody responses in response to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, which is reassuring."
Study results showed:
- More modest reductions in patients using TNF inhibitors, methotrexate and sulfasalazine, JAK inhibitors and IL-12/23 inhibitors.
- A 10-fold reduction in patients who used corticosteroids regularly.
- A 36-fold reduction in patients who use B cell inhibitors.
Learn more about study results here.
Question: What are the possible side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine?
A: COVID-19 vaccines can cause mild side effects, such as pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given, fever, fatigue, headache, chills and muscle or joint pain. These side effects are normal and signs that your immune system is building protection against the virus. Most side effects occur within the first three days of vaccination and usually only last a day or two.
These side effects can mimic symptoms of COVID-19. Get tested and self-isolate if you experience symptoms more than three days after being vaccinated lasting more than two days.
In its fact sheet about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, the FDA lists warnings for two serious side effects: blood clots and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a potentially serious neurological condition. Both conditions are very rare. So far, there have been one-hundred cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome and 28 cases of blood clots (22 of the 28 cases were in women) reported after vaccination. Additionally, there isn’t enough evidence to indicate that these side effects were directly linked to vaccination or had to do with other factors.
Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccines have reported this risk.
Signs of a blood clot include a severe headache that persists, severe abdominal or leg pain that won’t go away or shortness of breath. If you received the vaccine within the last 30 days and are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. If you received the vaccine more than a month ago, the risk for blood clot complications is very low, according to Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome usually appear within 42 days of vaccination. Talk to your doctor right away if you begin to experience weakness or tingling in your arms and legs, double vision or difficulty walking, speaking, chewing, swallowing or controlling your bladder or bowels.
While these side effects can be serious, experts note that they are extremely rare, and that the benefits of getting the J&J vaccine still vastly outweigh the risks. If you are scheduled for this vaccine, contact your doctor to discuss next steps.
Additionally, about 1200 cases of heart inflammation (myocarditis) and pericarditis have been reported following vaccination with one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna). Young adult males under 30 seem to be most at risk, and most cases occurred after the second dose. Most cases were mild, with symptoms like fatigue, chest pain and abnormal heart rhythm that cleared up on their own.
Experts stress that the benefits of vaccination strongly outweigh the risks and that COVID-19 infection is a major risk factor for heart inflammation and heart damage. In other words, the chances that an unvaccinated person who contracts COVID will experience heart problems is much greater than someone who gets vaccinated with one of the mRNA vaccines. Others who have received mRNA COVID-19 vaccines have experienced severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). These events are very rare. The CDC estimates that the rate of anaphylaxis is 11.1 per million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 2.5 cases per million doses of the Moderna vaccine. Another study, published as a research letter in JAMA, says that the risk of having a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine is “extremely low,” highlighting the overall safety of mRNA vaccines.
Experts urge that the fear of anaphylaxis should not deter people from getting vaccinated. The risk of developing severe outcomes from COVID-19 is much higher than the risk of an allergic reaction from the vaccine.
Still, healthcare workers must be prepared to treat reactions in the rare event they occur. As such, patients are asked to stay for 15 minutes to be monitored after vaccination – which is when most allergic reactions occur.
Those with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications may still get the vaccine. However, these patients are advised to be monitored for at least 30 minutes after vaccination.
Patients with a history of immediate allergic reactions to vaccines and injectable medications should discuss the risks with their doctor. The CDC advises patients to avoid vaccines containing ingredients that have given them previous severe allergic reactions.
There are two main allergens of concern in the COVID-19 vaccines:
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), which is found in the mRNA vaccines. If you are allergic to this ingredient, ask your doctor about getting the J&J vaccine
- Polysorbate, which is found in the J&J vaccine. Ask your doctor if you can get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine if you are allergic to this ingredient.
Finally, if you have an immediate allergic reaction after getting the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC advises against getting a second dose.
Question: What is the difference between an mRNA vaccine and an adenovirus vaccine?
A: The vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, Inc. use a genetic molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA), which teaches our cells how to create a version of the coronavirus spike protein. This prompts the immune system to make antibodies against this spike protein so the body can recognize the virus and fend off future infections.
Because mRNA is so fragile, these types of vaccines must wrap mRNA in oily lipids and store them in very cold temperatures.
Like mRNA vaccines, adenovirus vaccines also teach the immune system how to fight the coronavirus by carrying instructions for building the spike protein. But instead of storing the instructions in the form of mRNA, adenovirus vaccines, like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, use double-stranded DNA. The DNA is “wrapped” and delivered to the body in the form of a virus, called an adenovirus.
Adenoviruses are common – many cause the common cold and flu-like symptoms. However, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a modified adenovirus that cannot copy itself inside your cells and make you sick.
Importantly, mRNA and adenovirus vaccines only carry the instructions to build the coronavirus virus spike protein, not the virus itself. This makes it impossible for these vaccines to give you the coronavirus.
While these vaccine technologies are considered newer, scientists have actually been studying them for many years. And unlike traditional vaccines that use weakened live or dead versions of the entire virus, these vaccines are simpler to produce.
Question: How important is the timing between COVID-19 vaccine doses?
The FDA, CDC and other health experts stress that it’s essential to get fully vaccinated as close to the recommended dosing intervals as possible. In other words – don’t delay scheduling your second appointment longer than necessary. If you are able to get the COVID-19 vaccines in the 21-day (Pfizer/BioNTech) or 28-day (Moderna, Inc.) windows, or close to them, do so.
The CDC has guidance for those who are unable to get their second shot at the recommended dosing intervals.
- Second doses received up to four days earlier than the recommended intervals for both vaccines are still considered valid; 17 -21 days for Pfizer/BioNtech and 24-28 days for Moderna, Inc.
- Second doses received six weeks (42 days) after the initial dose for either vaccine are still considered valid.
Question: Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for people with autoimmune disease?
A: There is no advisory against vaccinating people with autoimmune diseases, and experts say there is no reason to believe that the current COVID-19 vaccines on the market will be unsafe for these populations.
Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, Inc. vaccines are made with mRNA technology, which contain genetic instructions for one part of the coronavirus instead of the entire virus itself. Experts, including Wilbur Chen, MD, vaccine researcher, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Ted Mikuls, MD, MSPH, Umbach Professor of Rheumatology at the University of Nebraska, expect that vaccines made with this technology to be safe for immunocompromised patients and those on immunosuppressant drugs.
However, Mikuls adds that more data is needed understand whether immunosuppressant medications or unchecked disease activity may reduce vaccine effectiveness. Even so, he anticipates the vaccine will provide protection for the vast majority of patients with arthritis and rheumatic diseases.
By the time the vaccine is rolled out to the public, there will likely be information to better assess the safety and efficacy for those with rheumatic diseases, says Amanda Nelson, MD, Associate Professor, UNC School of Medicine. Still, she emphasizes that it will likely be recommended for all rheumatologic patients.
Rheumatologists Liana Frankel, MD, MPH Professor Adjunct, Yale School of Medicine and Eric Ruderman, MD, Professor, Northwestern Medicine, are recommending that all their patients get the vaccine as soon as it’s available to them. Some DMARDs have been shown to blunt immune responses to other vaccines such as those for influenza, pneumonia and Hepatitis B. Whether holding or delaying DMARD therapies might lead to improved vaccine responses with available and emerging COVID vaccines is currently unknown.
The American College of Rheumatology (ACR), which is set to release COVID-19 vaccine guidance for rheumatologic populations early next year, said in a December 14th statement that they “anticipate recommending that all patients, including rheumatology patients, receive an approved COVID-19 vaccine.” Those who have a history of severe allergic reactions should talk to their doctor about the safety of getting a vaccine at the present time.
As data continues to be collected on the effects of vaccines for patients with autoimmune disease, talk to your health care provider about the considerations about getting vaccinated.
Question: Why do some people feel sick after a COVID-19 vaccine?
A: Some people who received the vaccine have had flu-like symptoms, including, body aches, chills and fever. If you experience these side effects, it's a normal response and a sign that your body is building a protection against the virus. In clinical trials, some participants experienced more side effects after the second dose.
Question: Can the vaccine give me COVID-19?
A: The vaccine cannot give you the virus. This is true of traditional vaccines made from dead viruses, and almost always true of live, attenuated vaccines, which in rare cases, can cause mild illness in some vulnerable populations. What’s more, the current vaccines on the market (Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna, Inc.) do not contain the entire virus, only genetic instructions for one part of the virus, so it’s impossible for these vaccines to give you COVID-1.
Question: How long does it take to develop immunity after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine?
A: The new COVID-19 vaccines teach your immune system to recognize and fight the virus. This protects you from getting sick with COVID-19. But a vaccine needs time to provide protection after it’s received. COVID-19 vaccines that require 2 shots may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot.
Remember, you could be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus just before or just after vaccination and get sick. So, it’s very important to continue the usual risk mitigation activities – wearing a mask, physical distancing, hand hygiene, etc.
Question: Can I get infected with COVID-19 after I get vaccinated?
A: The short answer is yes, but all three COVID-19 vaccines on the market provide exceptional protection against severe illness and hospitalization.
Many people think of vaccines as shields from viruses, but this isn’t always the case. For some, vaccines only protect against symptoms and disease, not necessarily infection. In other words, it’s possible that a vaccinated person may still get infected with a virus but not get sick or only experience mild or moderate symptoms.
Although vaccines don’t always prevent infection, they prime your immune system to quickly fight the virus and protect you from the worst outcomes of disease. It should be noted, however, that vaccine protection may be reduced in people with compromised immune systems, such as those taking immunosuppressive drugs. As such, health experts recommend that fully vaccinated people with compromised immune systems practice more caution. This includes wearing masks indoors, limiting time in crowded indoor spaces and practicing social distancing, especially as the newer, more contagious delta variant surges across the country.
Question: Can I still spread COVID-19 after getting vaccinated?
A: It’s possible, but less likely. Vaccines sharply reduce the chance of becoming infected with COVID-19. But in the event of a breakthrough infection from the delta variant, internal data from the CDC suggests that fully vaccinated people may be just as contagious as unvaccinated people with infections. As such, the CDC now recommends that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas of the country where the virus is surging.
Question: Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA?
A: No. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not change your DNA in any way. The term mRNA means messenger RNA vaccines. These vaccines teach your cells how to make a specific protein that triggers your immune system to fight back against the COVID-19 virus and protect against future COVID-19 infections. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of your cells where your DNA is located. Learn more about COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.
Question: Are vaccines recommended for people who have already had the virus or have tested positive for antibodies?
A: The short answer: yes. Researchers say there are still too many unknowns about how long immunity lasts from natural infection. Though immunity from COVID-19 vaccines is yet to be determined, research shows that vaccine immunity tends to be stronger than natural immunity. However, the Mayo Clinic advises that those who have been recently diagnosed or exposed to the virus should delay vaccination or wait about 90 days from the time of diagnosis to get vaccinated.
Question: Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for children with JA?
A: See: COVID-19 FAQS: Juvenile Arthritis.
Question: Am I at a higher risk for getting COVID-19 because I take immune-suppressing arthritis medications?
A: There is limited data about the effects of immunosuppressant medications on infection risk. However, current evidence shows that people taking disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), including biologics, are not at a higher risk for getting COVID-19. In fact, experts believe that well-controlled disease activity may help decrease the risk of infection, so in that regard, medication is beneficial.
Additionally, patients taking biologics, JAK inhibitors and conventional DMARDs, such as methotrexate, do not seem to have an increased risk of severe disease or hospitalization, according to findings presented at the virtual European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) 2020 Congress.
However, a small study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases in January suggests that patients with rheumatic disorders who receive biologics do have an increased risk for severe outcomes. Still, researchers note that more studies are needed to determine how just how large that risk is compared to the general population.
Additionally, people taking corticosteroids (e.g. prednisone) at doses of 10 mg or higher have an increased risk of being hospitalized with any infection, including a COVID-19 infection. But do not stop taking corticosteroids (also called glucocorticoids) suddenly. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking these medications. If the decision is to stop, work with your doctor to taper safely.
Question: Should I stop or reduce my arthritis drug even though I don’t have any coronavirus symptoms or a confirmed infection?
A: The short answer is no. Stopping immunosuppressive medications puts you at a higher risk for disease flares, worsening symptoms and developing joint damage.
Recent research from the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) suggests that the majority of people with rheumatic diseases who contract COVID-19 have similar outcomes to the general population, regardless of which disease-modifying medication they take.
However, certain medications may need to be temporarily stopped if you have a confirmed infection, have been exposed to someone with a COVID-19 infection or are experiencing common COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. But experts warn patients not to stop or change medication dosage without calling their doctors. This is especially important with corticosteroids, which should never be stopped suddenly. The American College of Rheumatology has issued coronavirus medication guidelines for both adult and pediatric rheumatology patients.
If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor will help you decide the best course of action.
Question: Is there an approved treatment for COVID-19?
A: Currently, there is only one FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19, the antiviral drug remdesivir. The drug may be used to treat adults and children ages 12 and older and weighing at least 88 pounds and who have been hospitalized for COVID-19. Clinical trials suggest that in these patients, remdesivir may modestly speed up recovery time. At the time, there is no information specific to how remdesivir impacts recovery for patients with autoimmune or inflammatory arthritis.
However, doctors may try other medications approved for other uses to treat the coronavirus, and the FDA has issued emergency use authorization (EUA) for several treatments. EUAs are granted during public health emergencies and allow the use of unapproved drugs or unapproved uses of approved drugs when no other approved option exists.
On February 9th, the FDA granted EUA to a monoclonal antibody drug combo from Eli Lilly. The authorized combo, which consists of a drug already granted EUA, bamlanivimab, and etesevimab, has been approved for use together to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in patients 12 and older weighing at least 88 pounds and who are at-risk of suffering a serious course of COVID-19.
Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses. These therapies must be given intravenously (by IV) soon after developing symptoms.
The FDA said that in a clinical trial of patients with COVID-19 at high risk for disease progression, a single intravenous infusion of bamlanivimab and etesevimab administered together significantly reduced COVID-19-related hospitalization and death during 29 days of follow-up compared to placebo. Still, the safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy continues to be evaluated.
Bamlanivimab and etesevimab are not authorized for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19. Treatment with bamlanivimab and etesevimab has not been studied in patients hospitalized due to COVID-19. Monoclonal antibodies, such as bamlanivimab and etesevimab, may be associated with worse clinical outcomes when administered to hospitalized patients with COVID-19 requiring high flow oxygen or mechanical ventilation.
Another monoclonal antibody treatment from Regeneron, a combination of casirivimab and imdevimab, has also been granted EUA. It is approved to treat non-hospitalized adults and children over age 12 with mild to moderate symptoms and who are at risk for developing severe outcomes.
The FDA has also issued an EUA for the use of convalescent plasma. After recovering from illness, the blood produces antibodies which help fight the virus. These antibodies are found in plasma, a component of blood.
Using convalescent plasma — or plasma from recovered patients — isn’t new. It’s been used for more than 100 years to treat a variety of illnesses and widely believed to be safe. However, little is known about the effectiveness for treating coronavirus, and studies are mixed.
Some doctors may also choose to use the corticosteroid, dexamethasone. According to the World Health Organization, the national UK clincial trial, RECOVERY, showed that the drug had benefits in critically ill patients. Other preliminary findings shared with the WHO found that the treatment was shown to reduce mortality by about one third, and for patients requiring only oxygen, mortality was cut by about one fifth.
Lastly, earlier hype about the effectiveness of the malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, has been debunked. Several studies show no benefits of using the drug. And due to potential risks associated with use, including heart, kidney and liver problems, the CDC recommends against the use of hydroxychloroquine unless it is being prescribed in the hospital or as part of a clinical trial.
Ultimately, the decision to treat COVID-19 with any drug depends on the judgment of the physician and the health status of the patient. In general, doctors will proceed with caution if patients have poor liver or kidney function, unless the potential benefits of using the drug outweigh potential risks.
Question: I heard taking NSAIDs can worsen the coronavirus. Should I stop taking NSAIDs in case I get sick?
A: There is no evidence that taking NSAIDs worsens the coronavirus or increases infection risk. Health experts recommend that people who need NSAIDs for pain relief or disease management continue to use them as directed. However, if you develop a COVID-19 infection, contact your doctor immediately for advice.
Question: Is the biologic that I take protective against COVID-19 since some biologics are being tested as COVID treatments?
A: There is no evidence yet in the studies completed so far that being on a biologic is protective against COVID. “We’re still in the early phases and the story may change over time, “explains Laura Lewandowski, MD, Clinical Fellow, Systemic Autoimmunity Branch, National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health. “However, all of them are not being studied as protective measures. In one study so far, rheumatology patients do not seem to be at an increased risk for COVID illness or hospitalization, but it doesn’t seem as if they have any special protection.”
There have been small studies of hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) as a preventative medicine in areas with limited personal protective equipment for health care workers. It has not been shown to prevent virus transmission. So, it’s very important to wear a mask and be vigilant about hand hygiene.
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