Having an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can cause your immune system’s functions to be suppressed due to medication needed to control RA. So, with this new disease, COVID-19, being rife, it can be extremely dangerous for patients with RA.
Due to rheumatoid arthritis suppressing the immune system, it is always wise to ensure vaccinations are kept up to date for more common infections such as the flu, pneumonia, and shingles. This is even more important now during the COVID-19 pandemic as the medicine you are taking for RA can run the risk of increasing your chance of infection and reduce your ability to fight away sickness due to having a reduced immune system.
Which Vaccines You Should Take
Since rheumatoid arthritis can affect lung function, it is really important to ensure that you maintain vaccinations against illnesses that are preventable such as pneumonia and the flu. Additionally, since there are vaccines available that are not live, you have a safe vaccine option. Whilst also having evidence that on occasion there may be side effects, they are mild and usually relate to other things such as some soreness where the injection was, a fever, or achiness.
Commonly caused by the pneumococcal bacterium, pneumonia is an infection within the lungs. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults who are immunocompromised take pneumococcal vaccines. When it comes to getting the vaccine, your doctor will be able to advise if one or two doses will be sufficient or whether you should be revaccinated after five years.
If you are over fifty, you will also need to be vaccinated for the herpes zoster. From childhood exposure to chickenpox, the chickenpox virus will be lying dormant. Decades later it can reawaken and form painful blisters known as shingles. Due to disease and the medications you may be taking, your immune system may be weak. Therefore, it becomes easier for this dormant virus to reactivate. Make sure to speak with your doctor and get medical guidance before getting the shingles vaccine.
When Should You Get Vaccinated
You will always be provided guidance when it comes to vaccinations. However, it is recommended that you receive all relevant vaccinations before you start taking any RA treatments. Many of the recommended drugs will suppress your immune system and increase your chances of contracting an infection. Some of the medication drugs can also reduce how your body responds to certain vaccines.
With that all in mind, you ideally would be aiming to get vaccinated when RA is under control, as a severe or uncontrolled RA runs the risk of lowering your response to the vaccine and you receiving less protection. That said, however, it is always subject to the individual’s circumstances. If you are unsure, seek medical guidance as there can be occasions where it is needed to vaccinate a person when they have active symptoms.
If you are looking for a rheumatologist to help with your RA, you have come to the right place! Rheumatology Care Of North Houston has the experience and expertise needed to help with all your rheumatology-related needs! To learn more about what we can do to help, call us today at 832-532-9779.