Should People With an Autoimmune Condition Get a Covid-19 Vaccine?
Most people deciding to be vaccinated against Covid-19 can support their choice with clinical trial data, which has demonstrated the safety and efficacy of both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. But people suffering from autoimmune conditions, particularly those on immune-suppressing medications, are facing the decision of whether to receive a shot without the benefit of robust evidence-based guidance, as they were excluded from the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and AstraZeneca clinical trials.
In the absence of clinical trial data, how should people with autoimmune conditions approach the risk/benefit analysis of getting vaccinated? Here’s what several experts had to say.
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Autoimmunity is a big tent
Autoimmune (literally “self-immune”) disease happens when the immune system turns its aggression on the body’s own healthy cells and tissues. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), there are more than 100 known autoimmune conditions. Some, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease are relatively common, while others are rare and hard to diagnose.
Roughly 24 million people in the United States have at least one autoimmune condition, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and many have more than one. An estimated 41 million people have auto-antibodies, molecules that indicate a risk of developing autoimmune disease.
Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials did involve some people with autoimmune conditions but excluded others. Autoimmune diseases vary as much in severity as they do in type, ranging from pesky to life-threatening. Some, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, are targeted on a single area (like the thyroid) and may be manageable without medications. People in this category were involved in…