Can patients treated with stem cells take the COVID vaccine?
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll around the world over the past year and a half, and the vaccination campaign has come as a relief for the population. India is making steady progress towards immunizing the entire eligible population in stages, given the country’s huge population.
Currently India has two major vaccinations approved for emergency use – a recombinant viral vector (Covishield, Serum Institute of India / AstraZeneca) and an inactivated virus (Covaxin, Bharat Biotech), with other candidates in the pipeline. The Department of Health has issued guidelines for vaccination eligibility – providing a broad list of systemic conditions, under which patients can safely take the vaccination. In other conditions not listed, patients are advised to consult their healthcare professional, who can then advise vaccination based on current medical condition and altering medications (if necessary).
Patients with systemic illnesses, especially long-standing cases, are generally considered to be at high risk of acquiring COVID-19 infection and associated mortality, due to the pre-existing disease burden.
Stem cell therapies are indicated for patients with multiple health conditions, for which treatments should target immune system dysfunction, reduce systemic inflammation, etc., to increase the likelihood of survival and improve quality of life. .
The Ministry of Health has made it clear that beneficiaries or people on the waiting list for stem cell therapies can get vaccinated. “The reason is that the benefits of vaccination in these high-risk individuals outweigh the potential risks due to the general immunosuppressive state which may predispose them to further infections,” said Dr. Pradeep Mahajan, researcher in regenerative medicine, StemRx Bioscience Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Navi Mumbai.
However, for the same reason of being in an immunosuppressive state (especially in the post-transplant period), it is important that patients stay in contact with their healthcare providers after vaccination to watch for any adverse events, a he declared.
“In addition, care should be taken during the interval between the two doses of vaccination and for a few weeks after the second dose, when the immune system responds to the vaccination. This period may increase the susceptibility of these patients to opportunistic infections or to COVID-19 itself, ”said Dr Mahajan.
Nevertheless, the manufacturers and the ministry have not issued any serious warnings or precautions for these patients, and vaccinations do not predispose patients treated with stem cells to adverse events or deterioration of their condition, he said. added.
“So there is no need for stem cell therapy patients to fear the after-effects of vaccination. Close monitoring of general health as well as positive lifestyle and diet changes, continuation of medications as prescribed, and following the advice of the health care provider will enable these patients to acquire immunity to COVID-19 after vaccination, which should be the priority given the current situation, ”he suggested.