Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for people with weakened immune systems?
Professor Ellie Barnes, Oxford University
Causes of immunosuppression
Auto-immune conditions (e.g. lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease,
Chronic diseases, liver, kidney disease, cancer
Post organ or bone marrow transplant
Complications of vaccination in immunocompromise
Problems with live vaccines
Measles, mumps, rubella
Reduced immune response may lower vaccine efficacy
Are the COVID vaccines safe for people who are immunocompromised?
Currently in UK, Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine
Neither of these are live vaccines.
And because of that, there’s no theoretical reason why these vaccines would not be completely safe, even
for people who are severely immunocompromised
Pfizer mRNA vaccine
No virus involved with that at all
Viral vector carries RNA to cells
Cannot replicate in cells or cause disease
These vaccines have been shown to be very safe
There’s no reason why an immunocompromised person would have a different adverse effect profile, compared to a healthy person after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine
Not expected to be more likely in immunocompromised people
Vaccine efficacy in immunocompromise
The phase three vaccines studies generally recruited healthy people and excluded people with severe disease and immunosuppressive therapy
Although it’s likely that vaccines can provide some level of protection for people who are immunocompromised,
right now we don’t have any solid data on how well COVID-19 vaccines will work in people with weakened immune systems
British Society for Immunology
While COVID-19 vaccination might provide a lower level of protection in people who are immunosuppressed or immunocompromised compared with the rest of the population,
it is still very important that you get vaccinated as it will offer you a certain amount of protection against catching COVID-19.
It is important that you receive two doses of the vaccine to maximise the protection that vaccination offers you.
COVID-19 vaccination will work best if you have a functioning immune system.
It’s important to remember that the COVID-19 vaccines can protect you from getting seriously ill with COVID-19,
although if your immune system isn’t functioning optimally this protection will not be complete.”
Professor Ellie Barnes
The vaccines will not harm you, and they may give you some protection
So my advice to patients currently is: if you’re offered a vaccine, take it
When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated
Two weeks after second dose in a 2-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines
Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
What Hasn’t Changed
Keep taking precautions in public places, wearing a mask, 6 feet, avoiding crowds, poorly ventilated spaces until we know more
Gathering with unvaccinated people
Visiting an unvaccinated person
Still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings
Still delay domestic and international travel
Still watch out for symptoms
Still get tested if symptomatic
Still self isolate
Still need to follow guidance at your workplace.
Gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask
Gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household, unless any of those has an increased risk of severe illness
If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
However, if you live in a group setting, and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms
What We Know and What We’re Still Learning
We know COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death.
We’re still learning how effective the vaccines are against variants
We know that prevention measures help stop the spread of COVID-19, and that these steps are still important
We’re still learning how well vaccines prevent spread
We’re still learning how long vaccines can protect people.
New lockdown from Thursday, education and shops
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Esther Schalke, Armed forces school for service dogs
94% accuracy, even if asymptomatic
From 1,000 + samples
coronavirus odor, emitted from cells in infected people
Holger Volk, Hanover’s University of Veterinary Medicine