CDC: Those With Weakened Immune Systems Should Continue COVID Precautions

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by Forest Ray PhD |

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People with weakened immune systems, such as those with scleroderma, should continue taking all COVID-19 precautions, even if fully vaccinated, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The Scleroderma Foundation’s MSAB [Medical & Scientific Advisory Board] Leadership Committee agrees with the CDC guidelines for those who have a condition or are on medications that weaken the immune system,” the foundation wrote in an open letter to the scleroderma community signed by Robert J. Riggs, CEO.

“While the vaccines that are currently available are [bringing] us closer to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy,” the letter read, “it’s important to weigh emerging knowledge about the virus, vaccines, and changing safety guidance with the risks for those with scleroderma/systemic sclerosis.”

In particular, the foundation noted that recent research suggests that COVID-19 vaccines may have less than 50% effectiveness for immunocompromised people, particularly those taking CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil).

The CDC strongly recommends that people diagnosed with scleroderma or systemic sclerosis (SSc) who are taking immunosuppressive therapies such as CellCept or rituximab, as well as the people they live with, should continue good COVID-19 avoidance practices.

These include wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, avoiding crowds and poorly-ventilated indoor spaces, and frequently washing their hands or using sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.

Both the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have stated previously that the vaccines are generally safe and pose little risk to the rare disease community, which includes patients with scleroderma. In a webinar, Peter Marks, the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, explained that the greater concern was whether the vaccines would be as effective in people with rare diseases, as they are in the general population.

Nevertheless, despite a potentially diminished efficacy among those with weakened immune defenses, the CDC still recommends getting a COVID-19 vaccine when able.

In general, people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after either their second dose, in the case of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or their single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The Scleroderma Foundation also noted that its current policy is still to suspend in-person events.

“As the leading patient advocacy organization for the scleroderma community, the Scleroderma Foundation takes seriously its responsibility to act in an abundance of caution by continuing to deliver its programs, services, and special events in virtual formats until the scientific community has more data on the efficacy of vaccines for immunosuppressed individuals,” it stated.