People with multiple sclerosis (MS) may be wondering if they should get a COVID-19 shot, and the answer is definitely yes, an expert says.
"The big takeaway message is the COVID-19 vaccine is strongly recommended for patients with multiple sclerosis," said Dr. Nancy Sicotte, director of the Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology Program at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.
"If you have an opportunity to get a vaccine, get it -- and the sooner, the better," she urged in a Cedars-Sinai news release.
Her recommendations are based on National MS Society guidelines. Sicotte is chair of the society's National Medical Advisory Committee.
More than 1 million Americans have MS, an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system.
COVID-19 vaccination is especially important for patients who have progressive MS; are older; have a physical disability or have chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure; or are Black or Hispanic, according to Sicotte.
She noted that some daily medications taken by MS patients may make COVID-19 vaccines less effective, but they'll still provide protection, including reducing the risk of severe COVID-19.
"Unless your health care provider advises against it, patients who get the COVID-19 vaccine should continue taking their disease-modifying therapies," Sicotte said. "Any protection is better than no protection."
The recommendations for MS patients also apply to people with other chronic diseases, according to Dr. Michael Ben-Aderet, associate medical director of hospital epidemiology for Cedars-Sinai.
"People with chronic illness or weakened immune systems may be at higher risk for severe COVID-19 disease, and the vaccines are particularly effective at preventing that," Ben-Aderet said in the release.
"There is also no evidence that people with weakened immune systems are at any increased risk of adverse events from the vaccine. While everyone should consult their own physician if they have questions, the vast majority of people with chronic illnesses can and should be vaccinated against COVID-19," he said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 vaccines.
SOURCE: Cedars-Sinai, news release, March 15, 2021