How The COVID-19 Vaccine Affects You If You Have A Chronic Condition

You might be concerned about getting a COVID-19 vaccine if you have a chronic condition. If you're hesitant about getting vaccinated, you're not alone. Let's look at what you can expect from the COVID-19 vaccine and its side effects if you have a chronic condition. 

First, what does it mean if you have a chronic condition? You have a chronic condition if you have an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, or have other ongoing medical conditions, which can include arthritis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, allergies, asthma, Alzheimer's, kidney failure, HIV or AIDS, stroke history, COPD, cystic fibrosis, low or high blood pressure, pulmonary fibrosis, sickle cell disease, or you've had an organ transplant. While this is not an exhaustive list, these are all chronic health conditions that can affect your immune system (via Healthline and Atrium Health). 

If you've had a bone marrow transplant, are getting chemotherapy, or have an autoimmune disease, you could be at a higher risk of getting severe COVID-19 than people who don't have an autoimmune disease. Some people with these conditions do experience a flare-up after getting the flu or shingles vaccination, which is why you might be concerned about getting the COVID-19 vaccination. However, it can be a relief to know that the benefits outweigh the risks because, without the vaccine, you are at a higher risk of getting infected. If you do get infected, you're also at a higher risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19, according to the American College of Rheumatology and the CDC

What if you take medications?

Now you know the health benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the risks, but will you get a flare-up if you get a shot? Possibly. Will it be as bad as getting a severe case of COVID? Not even close.

You might experience some of the common side effects of the vaccine, and those could mimic the symptoms of your chronic condition. Common vaccine side effects are pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site, headaches, muscle pain, fever, nausea, chills, and fatigue. These side effects should go away in a few days (via the CDC). If you have a weakened immune system, your body might not have a strong response to the vaccine, but that might shouldn't stop you from getting vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Another concern is if your medications will interfere with the vaccine. If you're taking any prescription medications, you'll need to talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to change the time you take them or stop taking them around the time you get the vaccine. This is especially important if you are taking steroid medication. You might need to stop taking them two weeks before or after getting the shot. Talk to your doctor and sign up for a vaccine near you with the VaccineFinder.