Finally, the COVID-19 vaccinations are here, and the world is breathing a sigh of relief. If you are in the first few groups of people receiving the vaccine, you should consider yourself very lucky. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are producing an incredible 95% effectiveness. Of course, it will be a while before the world can go completely back to normal. But having a vaccine is one of the first major steps in putting this whole pandemic in the rear view.
As you prepare to receive your vaccination, you may be wondering how your current medication will interact. Ayrn O’Connor, MD, is the director of medical toxicology fellowship at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. Throughout the pandemic, she has led the way, reviewing and analyzing the best possible treatments for COVID-19.
“In most cases, your current medication plan will not affect your ability to receive a COVID-19 vaccination,” said Dr. O’Connor. “In fact, if you are medicated for an ongoing condition that makes you high-risk for severe COVID-19, getting a vaccine is even more important.”
Dr. O’Connor emphasized the safety of getting your vaccination if your body is already weakened by another condition. The vaccine “informs” your immune system in a safe way so that you can attack COVID-19 if you are exposed in the future. You are not at risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 as a result of your vaccination.
Could any condition or medication make a COVID-19 vaccination dangerous?
Vaccines provide the greatest protection when your immune system is at full strength. For this reason, some patients undergoing immuno-suppressant therapies or who have weakened immune systems should work with their doctors to discuss the timing of their vaccination with their current treatment regimen so that they give the vaccine the greatest chance at success. Speak with your doctor if you have specific questions about your medication and never make changes to your prescribed plan without consulting your doctor first.
“Some people describe ‘pre-medicating’ before their vaccine with acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen,” commented Dr. O’Connor. “They do this in the hope of avoiding side effects. While this isn’t dangerous it is not a recommended practice. Unnecessary doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen may reduce your immune system’s ability to take advantage of the vaccine. In the end, you shouldn’t medicate for symptoms you aren’t feeling. If you are sore or have other side effects following your shot and require minor pain relief, you can medicate then.
Anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction to vaccines is a rare occurrence – about 1.3 in a million. Although the currently available COVID-19 vaccines do not contain other common allergens such as eggs, latex, gelatin or preservatives, rare cases of anaphylaxis have been reported. Again, this is extremely rare.
The World Health Organization (WHO) listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top ten threats to global health in 2019. Vaccines are our strongest defense against pandemic-level threats. But without widespread acceptance, herd immunity cannot be achieved. If you are concerned about the possibility of anaphylactic reactions due to extremely rare cases, speak with your doctor to get more information.
Share your story
Regarding vaccine hesitancy, Dr. O’Connor offered a bit of advice. “Share your positive vaccine stories with your friends. No matter how many articles and reports people read about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, there is no beating an endorsement from a close friend or family member.” If someone you know is nervous about the vaccine, your experience may be all they need to overcome their fear and get vaccinated. Help the world to overcome this difficult time even after your vaccine, by continuing to practice social distancing, washing your hands and wearing a mask in public places.
If you have more questions about the COVID-19 vaccines or how to maintain safe practices while the vaccine is distributed, read these related articles:
- What to Expect When You Get the COVID-19 Vaccination
- You Don’t Have COVID-19, But Is the Pandemic Making You Sick?
- A Guide to Shrinking Your Social Circle