CDC issues new COVID vaccination guidance for people with pre-existing conditions

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday released guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations for people who have pre-existing conditions.

Those with certain pre-existing conditions are at a higher risk of severe illness if they contract the coronavirus, and the CDC guidance says they can take an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine as long as they “have not had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration previously authorized Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, both of which require two doses, for emergency use.

Both vaccines administer mRNA, a molecule already found in the body, directly into the muscles. The mRNA then delivers instructions telling cells how to produce antibodies against COVID-19, leaving the body with protection against the virus.

The vaccines do not contain a live or inactivated virus and cannot give someone COVID-19.

Both vaccines were found to be safe during clinical trials, though experts say the occasional allergic reaction is expected as more people get vaccinated.

In Alaska, two health care workers experienced allergic reactions within minutes of receiving the Pfizer vaccine, The New York Times reported. The first person did not have a history of allergies, and it’s unclear if the second person did. Both have fully recovered.

The CDC on Saturday outlined specific recommendations for certain pre-existing conditions. It also emphasized the importance of continuing to follow current guidelines for protection against the virus, including mask use and social distancing, even after being vaccinated.

Weakened immune systems

People with HIV or weakened immune systems due to other conditions or medications may receive a COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC says.

But the agency says information about the safety of the vaccines for people with weakened immune systems isn’t available yet.

Clinical trials included people with HIV but “safety data specific to this group are not yet available at this time” either, the CDC guidance says.

“People with weakened immune systems should also be aware of the potential for reduced immune responses to the vaccine, as well as the need to continue following all current guidance to protect themselves against COVID-19,” the CDC says.

Autoimmune conditions

Those with autoimmune conditions may receive the COVID-19 vaccine but should be aware of limited safety data, the CDC says.

“They should be aware that no data are currently available on the safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for them,” the guidance says. “Individuals from this group were eligible for enrollment in clinical trials.”

Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells.

Guillain-Barre syndrome

People who have previously had Guillain-Barre syndrome may get the coronavirus vaccine, the CDC says.

The syndrome is a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves, according to the Mayo Clinic. Most with the condition require hospitalization but most recover.

So far, no cases of GBS have been reported after vaccinations in clinical trials, per the CDC.

“With few exceptions, the independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) general best practice guidelines for immunization do not include a history of GBS as a precaution to vaccination with other vaccines,” the guidance says.

Bell’s palsy

Those who have previously had Bell’s Palsy “may receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine,” the guidance says.

Bell’s Palsy causes a sudden weakness in the facial muscles that “makes half of your face appear to droop,” the Mayo Clinic says. It’s almost always temporary and very rarely reoccurs.

“Cases of Bell’s palsy were reported in participants in the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials,” the CDC says. “However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider these to be above the rate expected in the general population.”

Additionally, it’s unclear if the cases were caused by vaccination.

2 million vaccinated

Vaccine roll out is underway across the country, and the CDC estimates that nearly 2 million people have received a shot.

The vaccines are being allocated based on population, with states in charge of who is prioritized.

A CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that — after health care workers and nursing home residents receive their vaccines — people ages 75 and up and essential workers not involved in health care should be next in line followed by those ages 65 to 74, those ages 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions and other essential workers.

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