While the COVID-19 vaccines put us closer to safely returning to normal life, some people do experience side effects after receiving the shot. If you have atopic dermatitis (the most common type of eczema), you may be wondering if these new vaccines are recommended for you and what you should know before you receive one.
The good news is that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people with eczema, and the experts we spoke to have been suggesting them for their patients.
â€œIt is recommended and encouraged that people with eczema get the COVID-19 vaccine,â€ says Michele Green, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City.
Hereâ€™s what you should know about the COVID-19 vaccines.
1. When Will I Be Able to Get the Vaccine if I Have Eczema?
This depends on where you live, because each state is responsible for deciding how theyâ€™re rolling out the vaccine. Visit your stateâ€™s health department to learn about its plan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put together a recommended priority list of who should receive the vaccine first, which includes frontline workers, people over age 75, and individuals with underlying health conditions that put them at increased risk of severe COVID-19. According to the National Eczema Association, COVID-19 does not increase the risk of life-threatening complications for people with eczema.
2. Does Having an Additional Health Condition Besides Eczema Affect My Place in Line?
Potentially. The CDC recommends that individuals between ages 16 and 64 who have underlying medical conditions that put them at increased risk of developing serious, life-threatening complications from COVID-19 be included in the phase 1c rollout of the vaccine. If you have one of these health conditions, you may qualify to receive the vaccine earlier than the general population. Again, itâ€™s up to the state you live in to determine when you will become eligible and which underlying health conditions qualify.
3. Where Can I Get a COVID-19 Vaccine Once People With Eczema Are Allowed?
Reach out to your local health department or your doctor for more information. Vaccines are being administered in doctorsâ€™ offices, pharmacies, and designated vaccination sites around the country. Or try searching on VaccineFinder.org to find a vaccine location near you.
4. Are COVID-19 Vaccines Free for People With Eczema?
Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines are free to everyone living in the United States, regardless of their immigration status and whether or not they have health insurance, says the CDC.
5. Are the Vaccines Safe and Effective for People With Eczema?
â€œPeople with allergies â€” food, pets, venom, environmental allergies, latex allergies, and even people who have eczema â€” can safely get the vaccine,â€ says Lakiea Wright, MD, a physician in the allergy and immunology department of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and the medical director at Thermo Fisher Scientific. â€œWe know that millions have been vaccinated now and they can do so safety, with the exception of people who are allergic to any of the components of the vaccine.â€
So while having eczema or many other allergies isnâ€™t likely to set off an allergic reaction, being allergic to one of the ingredients in the vaccines might. If you have many allergies, Green says to review the ingredients in the vaccine you are to receive and consult with your allergist to be sure that itâ€™s safe for you. According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology (ACAAI), polyethylene glycol (PEG) is one ingredient in the COVID-19 vaccines thatâ€™s been shown to cause anaphylaxis. If you know youâ€™re allergic to PEG, you should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Polysorbate 80, which is found in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is another ingredient to watch out for.
6. What Side Effects of the Vaccine Should People With Eczema Pay Attention To?
So far, thereâ€™s no indication that a COVID-19 vaccine will worsen eczema, Dr. Wright says. You may experience common side effects associated with the vaccine, however, such as pain and swelling at the injection site or tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever, and nausea, especially after your second dose if youâ€™re receiving the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. In general, all three vaccines come with the same possible side effects. These reactions are normal and should resolve within a few days, per the CDC.
Itâ€™s also not likely that the vaccine will set off an allergic reaction. â€œAnaphylaxis is the severe allergic reaction that we worry about, and that's very rare with the COVID-19 vaccinations,â€ Wright says. â€œIt's about five per one million doses.â€
If youâ€™re prone to allergies or have had a reaction to another vaccine, the National Eczema Association suggests waiting at the vaccination center for 30 minutes after receiving the shot (instead of the recommended 15 minutes) to make sure you donâ€™t have an adverse reaction.
7. If Iâ€™m on an Eczema Medication That Suppresses the Immune System, Can I Get the COVID Vaccine?
Before receiving the vaccine, review your current medications with your doctor and ask if you should pause treatment or start a new treatment later than planned if youâ€™re currently taking an immunosuppressant medication (such as prednisolone, azathioprine, ciclosporin, methotrexate, mycophenolate mofetil, dupilumab, or tacrolimus), suggests the National Eczema Society (NEA).
In the case of dupilumab, consider waiting 24â€“72 hours after your vaccination before receiving your injection, as one NEA article suggests. (While people on this medication cannot receive live vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain live viruses, so this is not a concern.)
As for whether immunosuppressant medications affect vaccine efficacy, itâ€™s unclear, Green says. â€œCertainly, these medications will not prevent development of some immunity, though they could potentially reduce the immune response and the level of protection offered,â€ she adds.
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