Presented by Justin K. Owensby, PharmD, PhD, Department of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, University of Alabama at Birmingham
People living with autoimmune and systemic inflammatory conditions have an increased risk of vaccine-preventable infections, but many patients don’t get the vaccines they need. This educational webinar addresses how vaccines work, why vaccines are important, and which vaccines may be recommended for people living with an autoimmune or inflammatory condition.
Fast Facts from the Webinar
1. Vaccines can’t make you sick
Vaccines contain the same agents that cause infectious diseases, but they have been either killed or weakened to the point that they cannot make someone sick. Some vaccines contain only part of the infectious agent.
2. Vaccines teach your immune system to recognize and attack germs
A vaccination helps the immune system recognize the infectious disease agent and allows it to “practice” on a weakened or killed version of the agent. When this bacteria or virus invades the body again in full strength, the immune system is ready to respond with a swift and specific defense and therefore better protect you against the infection.
3. Having rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or other autoimmune disease decreases your body’s natural immune defenses
This can increase your risk of serious infections by two or three times. In addition, many people with an autoimmune condition take medications that alter some part of the immune response, potentially leaving them more vulnerable to infection. Therefore, it is especially important to speak with your physician about recommended vaccines and get vaccinated if you have an autoimmune condition.
4. ‘Live’ vaccines are usually not recommended for people with weakened immune systems
Live attenuated [weakened] vaccines are designed to produce an infection without symptoms — these vaccines often offer long-term immunity. Live vaccines are somewhat more likely to cause mild side effects as opposed to other vaccine types. Live vaccines are not typically recommended for those with weakened immune systems.
5. ‘Killed’ vaccines are safer for people with autoimmune conditions
Inactivated vaccines — sometimes referred to as “killed” vaccines — generally have fewer side effects than live attenuated vaccines but tend to prompt an immune response that is not as strong as live vaccines, so several doses or booster shots may be required. Inactivated vaccines may be taken by patients with autoimmune conditions.
The Patient Perspective
Here’s what patient participants said they learned from this webinar:
- “As someone with a compromised immune system, I learned that I cannot receive live vaccines and that I may need to adjust receiving a vaccination according to when I inject my Humira dose.” — Lisa H., patient participant
- “Excellent slides on the necessity of vaccines in general and about the specific vaccines I should ask my doctor about.” — Gina C., patient participant
About the Presenter
Justin K. Owensby, PharmD, PhD, is a Research Pharmacist in the Department of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Get Involved in Arthritis Research
If you are diagnosed with arthritis or another musculoskeletal condition, we encourage you to participate in future studies by joining CreakyJoints’ patient research registry, ArthritisPower. ArthritisPower is the first-ever patient-led, patient-centered research registry for joint, bone, and inflammatory skin conditions. Learn more and sign up here.