Medicines that may reduce the effectiveness of the Corona virus vaccine
Researchers at Michigan College of Medicine have found that taking medications that weaken the immune system may reduce the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccine, according to Healthline.
Dr. and researcher Beth Wallace said that these drugs are usually used to treat conditions in which the immune system poses a threat to the patient, as the immune system may damage certain parts of the patient’s body.
She added that examples of these types of conditions include autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, in which the immune system attacks parts of the patient’s own body, such as the joints for example.
In such cases, doctors prescribe drugs that suppress the patient’s immune system to prevent it from attacking the body’s tissues.
Wallace said that these drugs may also be used in other conditions, such as organ transplants, as these drugs help prevent the immune system from attacking the new transplanted organ as an intruder.
Additionally, certain types of chemotherapy used to kill cancer cells can have the side effect of suppressing the immune system.
Wallace said that most of these immunosuppressive drugs are only used in the chronic conditions mentioned above, however there is one common type of immunosuppressive drug that is steroids, which include drugs such as prednisone and dexamethasone.
These steroids can be prescribed in the short term to treat non-chronic conditions such as allergic rashes, bronchitis, and sinus infections.
Wallace explained that this is a serious problem, as these steroids greatly weaken immunity and increase the risk of infection, as they reduce the response of patients to vaccines in general, including the Corona virus vaccine.
Why do these drugs impair the response to the vaccine?
The body’s immune system identifies all foreign bodies such as microbes or viruses, etc., and then attacks and exterminates them to protect the body from diseases, toxins and cancer cells.
Vaccines teach the immune system to recognize a specific threat, so that it can respond appropriately if it is exposed to that threat again.
In contrast, immunosuppressive drugs reduce the immune system’s ability to recognize and combat threats.
This suppression and suppression of the immune system is useful in treating autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, where an unwanted immune reaction occurs, but at the same time this suppression is considered negative, because it limits the immune system’s response to vaccines in general.
“We are beginning to realize that people who take immunosuppressive drugs may have a slower and weaker response to the coronavirus vaccination,” Wallace added.
Experts say there may be strategies we can use to circumvent this problem.
Wallace suggests that in some cases, immunosuppressive medications may be stopped temporarily after consulting a doctor, until patients are able to receive the vaccine so that they are assured that it will work for them.
Dr Megan Baker, an epidemiologist at Brigham Hospital, added that if there is flexibility in the timing of immunosuppressive treatments, experts often recommend completing the COVID-19 vaccine series at least two weeks before starting the drugs.
If this is not possible, patients should speak with a healthcare professional to compare the risks versus the benefits of delaying treatment.
Wallace further explained that specific recommendations about the timing of immunosuppressive drugs should be tailored to meet the needs of the patient.
For example, the risks of pausing chemotherapy for a disease are very different from the risk of stopping a drug that a patient has been taking for 10 years, for example, for rheumatoid arthritis.
It also indicated that different immunosuppressive drugs may affect the vaccine response differently.
In addition to making changes in the timing of medications, Wallace said, “There are also some studies looking at the effect of a ‘booster shot’, which is an extra dose given several months after a patient is first vaccinated.”
Baker said that people on immunosuppressive treatments can and should get the coronavirus vaccine.
“Although the protective effect may vary depending on the condition or immunosuppressive treatment, most patients will get some protection from the vaccine,” she added. It may reduce the chance of them getting an infection or becoming seriously ill if they do become infected.