Psoriasis and COVID Vaccine Safety

Just like the rest of the world, I’m excited about the rollout of the new COVID-19 vaccines. When I saw news footage of the first hospital workers getting their immunizations, a sense of relief washed over me. Help is on the way.

The pandemic has upended my life and disrupted my family; my most recent disappointment was not being able to visit my mom in Southern California for her eightieth birthday. With a vaccine I envision being able to see my parents sooner rather than later. My daughter should be able to return to the University of California in Riverside, which announced plans to hold in-person instruction in the fall.

At the same time, I’ve wondered if the vaccines are safe for me, a person living with psoriasis taking an immune-modulating biologic, Skyrizi.

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety and Psoriasis

I’m encouraged that my dermatologist and two national psoriasis organizations agree that it’s safe for me to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

At my December teledermatology appointment my doctor advised me to get a vaccine when it becomes available to me. She assured me that the new mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna are not live vaccines (that is, the kind made with weakened forms of the coronavirus), which can be an issue for people who take biologics.

In fact, she said there is nothing that would stop me from getting a COVID-19 vaccine, including having psoriasis or taking a biologic.

I asked if my psoriasis put me into a high-priority group that would go to the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccination. She replied it did not, based on the current rollout priorities in our community. People with psoriasis have not been shown to be at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 or having greater complications if infected.

Her recommendation aligned with what I read from the International Psoriasis Council (IPC) and the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF).

The IPC posted a statement on COVID-19 vaccines and psoriasis, acknowledging that “Many people with psoriasis have raised concerns about potential adverse effects of vaccines on their skin disease.” In response to those concerns the IPC lists six practical considerations, including that “there is no evidence that vaccines affect psoriasis onset or severity.”

The NPF’s COVID-19 Task Force also issued a statement on COVID-19 vaccines. Joel Gelfand, MD, professor of dermatology and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and cochair of the NPF COVID-19 Task Force, stated, “The new mRNA vaccines are an astonishingly 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 and are extremely safe. We recommend that patients with psoriatic disease get the vaccine as soon as it is available to them.”

Dr. Gelfand also confirmed what my doctor told me about taking the vaccine while being treated with a biologic: “Patients may continue their oral or biologic psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis treatment without interruption when receiving these immunizations.”

RELATED: How I’m Managing My Psoriasis in the Shadow of the Coronavirus

Remaining Patient During the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

An effective and safe vaccine represents so much more to me than not getting sick with COVID-19. While I’ve tried to stay strong and appear unaffected, my excitement at the arrival of the vaccines revealed just how much this crisis has worn on me. I see the vaccine as the beginning of the end to the pandemic.

Of course, I wish that I could immediately go back to life the way it was before the pandemic, but it will take time. I’m still not sure when I will be able to get my shot. While initial vaccine shipments have arrived, vaccinations in my county are rolling out more slowly due to limited dose availability. County officials are urging patience, which is something that I know I will continue to need in high supply.

Even after I get vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that I will still need to follow its safety recommendations including wearing masks, maintaining physical distance of six feet from others, and washing hands.

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two doses spaced three to four weeks apart and take time to build immunity. Until researchers have a clearer understanding of whether it’s possible for people who are vaccinated to pass the virus to others, I want to stay vigilant in following safety protocols. It will take months for enough people to be vaccinated to halt the spread of the virus.

RELATED: What You Need to Know About the COVID Vaccine

What a COVID-19 Vaccine Means to Me

Still, I look forward to a time when the pandemic is not dominating my thoughts and life.

My emotional health would no doubt improve with a COVID-19 vaccine. Viral infections, especially those accompanied by a fever, trigger my psoriasis to flare severely.

My great fear with COVID-19 is not death, but having it greatly worsen my current health conditions. While I can’t be certain I won’t get a sore arm, a headache, or another common vaccine side effect as outlined by the CDC, I feel it’s still better than getting COVID-19.

The potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine make me optimistic that we will all emerge from the shadow of the coronavirus.

You can read more about my experiences in my blog for Everyday Health and on my website.

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