COVID-19 Vaccine Update – March 9, 2021

Our medical team at the Rocky Mountain MS Center at University of Colorado is recommending that all individuals receive the COVID-19 vaccine, unless there is a specific reason to not get vaccinated, such as a known allergy to a component of the vaccine.

Data and science have shown that the vaccines are safe and effective. As always, with any intervention, if you have any questions, please be sure to check with your provider before taking any drug or vaccine.

There are now three vaccines which have received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. The Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines received authorization in December and on February 27 the FDA also authorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires a single dose. All three vaccines are safe and effective and are a critical tool toward ending the COVID-19 pandemic. And all three vaccines are safe for individuals with MS and they are safe to use with MS disease modifying therapies (DMTs). 

Nationwide distribution of the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines has been underway since December. To date, more than 90 million doses have been administered, reaching 17.7% of the total population of the United States. More than 1.6 million doses have been administered in Colorado and 18.2% of the state’s population has received at least one dose. The first shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccination doses were distributed to states last week.

Vaccines and DMTs

Continue your DMT unless you are advised by your MS healthcare provider to stop or delay it. All three vaccines are safe and effective. Some DMTs, including anti-CD20 therapies, may make the vaccine less effective, but the vaccine likely does still provide significant protection.

UPDATE: Please see the video on this page for an update from Dr. Tim Vollmer regarding possible effects of COVID-19 vaccines on MS symptoms.

It is most important to note that getting the vaccine when it is available to you is more important than timing the vaccine perfectly with your DMT.

We do not have any real world data that adjusting the timing of the vaccination relative to the timing of your MS medications will have any positive benefit in terms of improving your response to the vaccine. And, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is still very high. Therefore, early vaccination will provide more benefit to you than trying to time the vaccine to possibly gain somewhat higher immune responses to the vaccine.

All three vaccines are safe and effective, so get whichever one of the options becomes available to you. Again, it is important to emphasize that getting the vaccine as early as possible will provide more benefit to you than trying to time the vaccine to possibly gain somewhat higher immune responses to the vaccine. Please work with your MS healthcare provider to determine the best schedule for you.

For more details about timing your vaccine with your DMT, please see the National MS Society’s suggestions here. Keep in mind that these recommendations from the NMSS are based on expert opinion as there is no real world data available regarding effectiveness relative to adjusting the timing of your MS medications. If you take Ocrevus or Rituxan, IF possible, try to wait at least 4 weeks until after last vaccine injection to get your next infusion.

Again, getting the vaccine when it is available to you is more important than timing the vaccine perfectly with your DMT. These safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are a critical tool to ending the pandemic. In addition to getting vaccinated, wearing a face mask, social distancing and washing your hands are the best ways to slow the spread of the virus and should be continued even if you get a COVID-19 vaccine.

To view our collection of Vaccine Myths & Facts, please click here.

VACCINE DISTRIBUTION

Each state is determining their vaccination distribution plans and prioritization. In Colorado, there are multiple phases for vaccine distribution. Currently, people in phases 1A, 1B.1, 1B.2, and 1B.3 are now eligible to be vaccinated.

These current 1A and 1B Phases include anyone who is 60 or older, as well as first responders, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and those working with the public in health care, child care or K-12 education, frontline workers in food and agriculture, including grocery store workers, meatpackers, and agricultural processors. Phase 1B.3 also includes those 16-59 with two or more high-risk health conditions, which does NOT include MS or related disorders, or those on routine MS or NMO drugs. However, the good news is that Phase 1B.4 now includes “neurologic conditions,” “immune deficiencies,” and “use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines” which includes individuals with MS or related disorders. Colorado Department of Public Health estimates Phase 1B.4 is expected to begin by approximately March 21st.

For complete information about Colorado’s vaccine distribution phases, click here:  https://covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine

GETTING A VACCINE APPPOINTMENT

 If you live in Colorado, here are some helpful resources to help navigate signing up for a vaccine appointment: