COVID-19 has ravaged the United States, along with the world, in 2020. Thankfully, in late 2020 and early 2021, the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines (two of them – Pfizer and Moderna) are finally making its way into our communities. There are probably two questions on your mind – first is it safe – period, and second, is is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for someone with celiac disease?
Listen, I’m just a blogger. I’m not a doctor, but thankfully we have enough incredibly smart voices in the medical community that are linked throughout this post. If you don’t trust me (and that’s fine, I mean give me a few glasses of champagne and I can get sketchy), please trust the medical community and the information linked in the post about the safety of vaccines.
Are mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Safe?
I get it – you hear “mRNA” and think of DNA and your mind automatically jumps to the scene in Jurassic Park about frog DNA and you’re thinking that you don’t want to become a genetically modified velociraptor. Good thing that’s now how this (or anything????) works.
Thankfully, the School of Pharmacy of Waterloo University (thanks Canada) came up with this incredible graphic busting some of the top myths that we’re hearing about the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.
Here are some thoughts about vaccines and their safety:
- Yes, developing a vaccine in a year – whew, that’s fast. But it wasn’t rushed. This vaccine was put as top priority globally – meaning more time spent just working on COVID-19 vaccines, more researchers, more companies involved, more money put towards just this, and less lag time between research. This is what happens when the greatest scientific minds across the world get together and are fully supported by the government. Okay, now let’s do this solving the rest of the world’s problems! Yay science!
- While mRNA vaccines are new(ish), they have been used before in studies for ZIKA and other viruses. Why haven’t they been used yet for mass vaccination like COVID-19? No sense of urgency for these other viruses that as a whole are typically under control – unlike COVID-19 that is raging like a toddler who needs a nap.
- Vaccines do not cause autism. Period.
- Vaccines will not get you sick with the virus, but it may make you feel sick for a few days. Don’t worry, this is your immune system mounting a response against the infection. These few days help you fight future infections of COVID-19, just like the flu shot. The flu shot makes me sick every year. I feel fatigue, my lymph nodes in my armpit swell up, and my arm feels like it was used in boxing practice. But I understand that it’s my body doing what it needs to do with my annual flu shot. You might be lucky and not have any symptoms at all!
- No, the vaccine will not make you infertile. Let’s check with our friends at Mayo Clinic to bust this myth!
A sophisticated disinformation campaign has been circulating online, claiming that antibodies to the spike protein of COVID-19 produced from these vaccines will bind to placental proteins and prevent pregnancy. This disinformation is thought to originate from internet postings by a former scientist known to hold anti-vaccine views.
These postings are not scientifically plausible, as COVID-19 infection has not been linked to infertility. Also, no other viral infection or vaccination-inducing immunity by similar mechanisms has been shown to cause infertility. Antibodies to the spike protein have not been linked to infertility after COVID-19 infection. There is no scientific reason to believe this will change after vaccination for COVID-19.Mayo Clinic, COVID-19 Vaccine Myths Debunked
So vaccines are safe for the general population, but what about those with celiac disease? We have an autoimmune disease, so should we be extra cautious about getting this vaccine? The top minds of celiac disease state that it’s safe, and encourage getting this vaccine.
Society for the Study of Celiac Disease Says COVID-19 Vaccine Safe
The Society for the Study of Celiac Disease (SSCD) – a professional organization featuring our favorite gluten-free rockstar doctors (like Dr. Kelley, Lebwhol, Crowe, Fasano, and Verma) and researchers from North America, released a statement on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for celiac disease patients.
With the recent news that the Food and Drug Administration has granted Emergency Use Authorization for a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, patients with celiac disease are asking for guidance about the advisability of this and other Covid-19 vaccines in the context of celiac disease, an immune-mediated condition. As scientists and clinicians who care for people with celiac disease, we urge people with celiac disease to receive a Covid-19 vaccine that has met government regulatory approval. This includes agents comprised of RNA (a vaccine technology that has been in development and has undergone safety testing for years) and peptide (protein) vaccines.
During the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was initial concern that people with celiac disease might be at a slightly increased risk of severe outcomes from SARS-CoV-2 infection, given prior studies suggesting risks related to pneumonia and viral infections. Studies thus far, including the international registry www.covidceliac.org, have indicated no increased risk of severe outcomes. Even though the risk among people with celiac disease is comparable to that of the general population, we have seen that Covid-19 can nevertheless have devastating effects, and we share in the consensus belief by the public health community that mass vaccination is crucial. As the safety and efficacy data on Covid vaccination has emerged, there is no evidence to suggest that people with celiac disease would be more prone to an adverse effect of vaccination. Celiac disease is not considered an allergy, and by itself does not prompt additional precaution when proceeding with vaccination. Patients with concerns about vaccination and their particular circumstance should speak with their health care provider. We will undergo Covid-19 vaccination as soon as it is offered to us, and we urge our patients to do so.
The Society for the Study of Celiac DiseaseThe Society for the Study of Celiac Disease, https://www.theceliacsociety.org/
But Could I Be Allergic to the COVID-19 Vaccine?
For the vast majority of the universe – no. At first, there were scares that people with a history of anaphylaxes (typically NOT those with celiac – more like those with a true wheat allergy would suffer), could not take the vaccine. Thankfully, CDC recently issued guidance on these issues.
CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications—such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies—get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.Centers for Disease Control, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/allergic-reaction.html
However, if you have a very rare allergy to an additive that’s often used in vaccines, including polyethylene glycol (PEG) or its close relative polysorbate, you are advised not to receive either of the currently available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Check out Allergy Amulet’s blog on the ingredients of the current vaccines.
So You’re Saying I Should Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Yes, yes I am. Unless you have other issues besides celiac disease (ex. reactions to other vaccines or allergies to inert ingredients), you should help us achieve herd immunity against COVID-19. Until we reach herd immunity, we all need to do our part by wearing masks, washing our hands regularly, practicing social distancing, and being good stewards of public health. I urge you to treat COVID-19 seriously – we’ve already seen it take too much from us. Please fight vaccine myths when you see them – we need everyone in the good fight for science.