As COVID-19 vaccines become more and more available across the country, and COVID infection rates are generally on the decline, there’s no shortage of questions about how those vaccines may effect people living with MS — and particularly those on disease modifying therapies (DMTs).
Our medical team at the Rocky Mountain MS Center at University of Colorado (RMMSC at CU) is recommending that all individuals receive the COVID-19 vaccine, unless there is a specific reason to not get vaccinated, such as a known allergy to a component of the vaccine.
Data and science have shown that the vaccines are safe and effective. As always, with any intervention, if you have any questions, please be sure to check with your provider before taking any drug or vaccine.
There are now three vaccines which have received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. The Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines received authorization in December and on February 27 the FDA also authorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires a single dose. All three vaccines are safe and effective and are a critical tool toward ending the COVID-19 pandemic. And all three vaccines are safe for individuals with MS and they are safe to use with MS disease modifying therapies (DMTs).
Nationwide distribution of the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines has been underway since December. To date, more than 90 million doses have been administered, reaching 17.7% of the total population of the United States. More than 1.6 million doses have been administered in Colorado and 18.2% of the state’s population has received at least one dose. The first shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccination doses were distributed to states in early March.
Vaccines and DMTs
All three vaccines are safe and effective. Some DMTs, including anti-CD20 therapies, may make the vaccine less effective, but the vaccine likely does still provide significant protection. Continue your DMT unless you are advised by your MS healthcare provider to stop or delay it.
It is most important to note that getting the vaccine when it’s available to you is more important than timing the vaccine perfectly with your DMT.
We do not have any real world data that adjusting the timing of the vaccination relative to the timing of your MS medications will have any positive benefit in terms of improving your response to the vaccine. And, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is still very high. Therefore, early vaccination will provide more benefit to you than trying to time the vaccine to possibly gain somewhat higher immune responses to the vaccine.
For details about timing your vaccine with your DMT, please see the National MS Society’s suggestions found here: Tinyurl.com/COVID-DMT. These recommendations are based on expert opinion, as there is no real world data available regarding effectiveness relative to the timing of your MS medications. If you take Ocrevus or Rituxan, IF possible, try to wait at least 4 weeks until after last vaccine injection to get your next infusion.
Again, getting the vaccine when it is available to you is more important than timing the vaccine perfectly with your DMT. These safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are a critical tool to ending the pandemic.
In addition to getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands are the best ways to slow the spread of the virus and should be continued even if you get a COVID-19 vaccine.
If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking any drug or vaccine.