We are well into the second month of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution. We’ve been getting several questions in our clinic in the last few weeks, mostly about vaccine side effects and how to prepare yourself for getting the vaccine. Especially for those with autoimmune diseases. We will try to outline what we know so far into this post.
COVID-19 Vaccine and Autoimmune Diseases
Currently, those with autoimmune diseases are considered one of the at-risk populations for complications from COVID-19. They are also one of the groups more likely to have side effects from the vaccine. Anything that stimulates the immune system can stimulate autoimmune diseases.
Currently there are studies on the safety of mRNA vaccines in those with autoimmune diseases. What we have been seeing though in our clinic is that those that have inflammatory arthritis from autoimmune diseases are more likely to have a worsening of their symptoms.
In the Pfizer vaccine clinical trial, 11% of vaccinated people had symptoms of new or worsening joint pain after the first shot. While 22% were more likely after the 2nd shot. 21% of people vaccinated were more likely to have new or worsening muscle pain (not at the sight of the shot) after the first shot. And 37% were more likely after the 2nd shot.
In the Moderna Clinical trial, 16% of vaccinated people had symptoms of new or worsening joint pain after the first shot. While 45% were more likely after the 2nd shot. 23% of people vaccinated were more likely to have new or worsening muscle pain (not at the sight of the shot) after the first shot. And 61% were more likely after the 2nd shot.
Systemic worsening in symptoms after the vaccine was more likely to happen in those < 65 years of age in both trials.
Vaccine Side Effects
The most commonly reported side effects for both vaccines include:
- Pain, redness and swelling at the site of injection
None of the vaccines being given in the US have the following ingredients (so no need to worry about the following):
Side effects for most people happen within 7 days of getting the vaccine. The second dose for both vaccine tends to produce much stronger symptoms than the first.
Who Should Wait?
In assessing any medication, analyzing the risk/benefit ratio is always important. As of now, since we are in a global pandemic, the benefit of getting vaccinated will outweigh most risks. But some special precautions should be taken into consideration.
First – anyone who has had severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to any ingredient in the mRNA vaccine, should not get that type of vaccine. Additionally, those who have had severe allergic reactions to the first dose should not get a second dose. If you have had severe allergic reactions to previous vaccines, you should check in with your doctor about whether the vaccines are safe for you.
Pregnant women are another area of uncertainty. As of now, we have no safety data for pregnant women receiving this type of vaccine. It is the choice of the pregnant women for whether or not she wants the vaccine or not.
Children are another category that has a lot of uncertainty. We do not have enough data at this time to know if the vaccine is safe or effective in children. At this time though, children are low on the list for vaccinations given their low risk of complications and that children are likely to spread the virus less readily.
How to Prepare for Your Vaccine
If you are in line to get the vaccine, but are concerned about some side effects, here are some ways to help prepare your body.
- Take some time off post-vaccination
Most people get the worst side effects within 7 days of the vaccination. Plan to take some time off of work after you get vaccinated to rest in case you have symptoms. The second shot is almost always harder on the body – so make sure you take extra time depending on how you reacted to the first shot.
2. Get lots of sleep
You’ll want to get lots of sleep before and after you get the vaccine so your body has time to heal. Plan for 8-9 hours of sleep every day the week before and after you get the vaccine. Try to minimize stress and over-stimulation from electronics. (To the best of your ability!)
3. Help buffer your inflammation
Certain herbs and vitamins can help reduce excess inflammation from the vaccine without reducing effectiveness. Here are a few:
– Vitamin C: 1000mg twice a day x 2 weeks
– Fish Oil: 3,000mg fish oil twice a day x 2 weeks
– Probiotics: 50 billion organisms per day x 2 weeks
– Curcumin: 3g twice a day x 2 weeks
4. Day Of Treatment
The day you get the vaccine, make sure you eat a health breakfast. To help minimize localized swelling and redness, you can apply a cold wash cloth the area of the injection. There is no specific data that says that pain relieving medications like aspirin and tylenol reduce the efficacy of the vaccine, but keep these medications to a minimum if possible.
If you have specific questions about how the COVID-19 vaccine may affect you and how to help your body through the vaccination process. Contact your doctor, or meet with one of our physicians. You can contact our office to schedule a free 15 min consult.
Looking for more information on autoimmune diseases? Get our FREE ebook The 5 Foundations of Autoimmune Diseases, register for one of our FREE online webinars, or check out our blog for additional articles.