New guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology for the COVID-19 vaccine
February 2021, the American College of Rheumatology released recommendations on what to do with immunosuppressant drugs around the time of your COVID-19 vaccine. The reason for these recommendations is that some of our medicines can blunt the effects of the vaccine. Timing the drug to the vaccine to your medication can make a big difference.
ALSO: They make other important recommendations as listed below. Make sure to share this with your family, friends, and other patients
- Do not do any of these without asking your rheumatologist first (let them know that you did read these up to date recommendations here)
- PRINT these out for future reference for other vaccines
- I also recommend these to my patients who get any vaccine, IF they are in remission or at low risk of flaring when they get the vaccine (again, do not do this without talking to your rheumatologist first)
- I agree with all of these, except, I differ with the methotrexate recommendation, as per below
The link to the full recommendations is below at the bottom of the post.
Drug recommendations summary:
Abatacept IV (Orencia): Time vaccine administration so that the 1st vaccine occurs 4weeks after Orencia IV (i.e., the entire dosing interval), and postpone the subsequent IV Orencia by 1 week (i.e., a 5-week gap in total); no medication adjustment for the second vaccine dose
Abatacept SQ (Orencia self injectable): Hold SQ abatacept both one week prior to and one week after the first
COVID-19 vaccine dose (only); no interruption around the second vaccine dose
Azathioprine (Imuran): No modification needed
Belimumab (Benlysta): No modification needed
Cyclophosphamide: No modification needed for pills. For the IV form, time CYC administration so that it will occur approximately 1 week after each vaccine dose, when feasible.
Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil): No modification needed
IVIG: No modification needed
JAK inhibitors (Xeljanz, Olumiant, Rinvoq): Hold JAKi for 1 week after each vaccine dose
Kineret: No modification needed
Leflunomide (Arava): No modification needed
Methotrexate: Hold MTX 1 week after each vaccine dose, for those with well-controlled disease
NOTE Dr. Thomas' recommendations to his patients: "Hold MTX dose for 2 doses after each vaccine if you are doing well and in remission" (do not do without talking to your own doctor). This is based on the latest study results with the flu shot and methotrexate.
Mycophenolate (CellCept, Myfortic): No modification needed
Prednisone: No modification needed
Rituximab (Rituxan): Assuming that patient's COVID-19 risk is low or is able to be mitigated by preventive health measures (e.g., self-isolation), schedule vaccination so that the vaccine series is initiated approximately 4 weeks prior to next scheduled rituximab cycle; after vaccination, delay RTX 2-4 weeks after 2nd vaccine dose, if disease activity allows.
Sulfasalazine: No modification needed
Tacrolimus and cyclosporine A: No modification needed
TNF inhibitors (adalimumab, etanercept, infliximab, golimumab, certolizumab): No modification needed
Tocilizumab (Actemra): No modification needed
Voclosporin (Lupkynis): No modification needed
Other important recommendations from the ACR:
- There is no preference of getting one vaccine over another (Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, AstraZeneca): Get whatever is available for you
- Lab testing is NOT required after vaccines to assess response to the vaccine
- Ask all household members, friends and loved-ones to get vaccinated to protect you (the cocoon effect)
- If you don't believe in the vaccine, get vaccinated at least to protect those you love (Dr. Thomas' addition)
- Get vaccinated even if your disease is active
REFERENCE: ACR, COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Guidance Summary for Patients with Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases. Developed by the ACR COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Guidance Task Force.
This draft summary was approved by the ACR Board of Directors on February 8, 2021.. A full manuscript is pending journal peer review.
Note that Dr. Thomas' posts are for informational purposes only, and are not meant to be specific medical advice for individuals. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider with any questions regarding your own medical situation.
DONALD THOMAS, MD