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COVID-19 Resources

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

  • Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe and effective? Do the benefits to receiving the vaccine outweigh the risks?

    Experts widely agree that FDA approved or-authorized vaccines are safe and effective and are recommended for all individuals ages 12 and older. In clinical trials, the Pfizer vaccine was 95 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, the Moderna vaccine was 94.1 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was 72 percent effective in preventing COVID-19, and 86 percent effective in preventing severe COVID-19.

    With over 190 million Americans now vaccinated, real-world evidence further confirms the effectiveness of the vaccines. Data from around the world, including Israel, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. show substantial decreases in the infection, symptomatic illness, and death rates of those who are vaccinated compared to those who are not.

  • Which vaccines are fully FDA approved for adults?

    Currently, only the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has received full FDA approval. The Moderna and J&J vaccines have received emergency use authorization. However, data show all three vaccines are both safe and effective. We recommend talking to your doctor about which vaccine is the best for you.

  • Do the vaccines work against the Delta variant?

    While the scientific and medical community are still collecting conclusive data on the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines against the Delta variant, the early evidence shows that the vaccines still have a strong protective barrier against the Delta variant, albeit it reduced. Of those who are vaccinated, it is still uncommon for “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19 to occur, and it is rare for symptomatic illness, hospitalization, and death to occur thereafter, though the risk of these events occurring increases with time following vaccination. While the Delta variant is more contagious and can lead to more severe diseases due to higher viral loads, the vaccines still provide a protective nature against infection and symptomatic illness.

  • If I got the vaccine, will I need a booster shot?

    For anyone who originally received the J&J vaccine, a booster shot is recommended two months after your original dose. For those who originally received the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, booster shots are recommended six months after your second dose. NOTE: At this time, booster shots are only recommended for those who are 18 years or older.

  • Can my booster shot be a different brand than my original vaccine?

    Yes, the FDA has allowed booster shots to be a different brand from a patient’s original vaccine. We recommend consulting with your doctor to decide which brand is the best for you.

  • Are the vaccines still protective in those who are immunocompromised? Should they still get the vaccine?

    Studies are ongoing as to whether the FDA approved or authorized vaccines are protective in those who are immunocompromised. However, early evidence points to a lessened antibody response in those with weakened immune systems, and consequently potentially a lessened protectiveness against COVID-19. Therefore, health authorities have recommended those who are immunocompromised immediately receive a 3rd dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. In addition, the CDC also suggests those with compromised immune systems also employ additional protective measures such as avoiding crowds, physical distancing, and mask wearing.

  • Now that the vaccines are widely available, how should I obtain the vaccine?

    Vaccines are widely available at a variety of facilities, including doctors’ offices, pharmacies, grocery stores, government-run clinics, and more. You can go to https://www.vaccines.gov/ to find a vaccination site near you.

  • With multiple COVID vaccines approved or authorized by the FDA, which one should I get?

    All three FDA approved or authorized vaccines are widely available, so it should not be difficult to find whichever vaccine you would like to receive. Experts are emphatic that it does not matter so much which vaccine you receive, rather that you are vaccinated in the first place. With each vaccine approved for slightly different age groups, we recommend consulting with you doctor about which vaccine is right for you.

  • What are the side effects? Will they affect my neuromuscular condition?

    The known sides effects of currently approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines are generally similar to those of the annual flu vaccine. These include muscle soreness at the injection site, fever, tiredness, body aches, and headache. In very rare cases, reports of myocarditis have been reported in individuals receiving the J&J vaccine. We do not anticipate COVID-19 vaccines will have a different or more serious set of side effects for NMD patients, and with many individuals with an NMD now having received the vaccine, MDA is not aware of any increased incidence of side effects in individuals with an NMD. Still, this has not been proven in clinical trials. You should talk to your doctor about the possibility of more serious side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine for you. But it is widely agreed that potential side effects of the vaccine are substantially dwarfed by the protective benefits they bring, particularly to at-risk communities.

  • What impacts will the vaccine have on my genetic therapies or other medication?

    MDA is not aware of any evidence that any of the three FDA approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccinations will have any effect on current or future neuromuscular disease treatments, including gene-based therapies. However, it never hurts to consult with your clinician about directly. Upon the FDA authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the FDA did not name any contraindications pertaining to genetic therapies or other medications particularly important to the neuromuscular community. Should there be any contraindications that accompany future Agency decisions, we will update our information accordingly. However, given the many different neuromuscular disorders and courses of treatment, this question can best be addressed by your clinician. For more information on the FDA authorizations, please visit: https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/covid-19-vaccines.

  • Will the COVID-19 vaccine be covered by my health insurance? What if I don't have health insurance?

    All individuals regardless of insurance coverage should receive a COVID-19 vaccine free-of-charge. The CARES Act, enacted by Congress in the Spring of 2020, mandated all Medicare beneficiaries and individuals with private insurance obtained through their employer or ACA marketplaces receive the COVID-19 vaccine entirely free of charge. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, also passed by Congress last year, similarly required state Medicaid plans to cover the vaccine free of charge. For those who are uninsured, any provider who is participating in the COVID-19 vaccination program must provide all individuals regardless of insurance status with a free vaccine. Similar free coverage requirements are in place for the VA, Department of Defense, and Federal employees. For more information, please visit: https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/vaccine-coverage-pricing-and-reimbursement-in-the-u-s/

    It is possible that you will be charged for the cost of administration of the vaccine. This varies on the location of vaccine administration and your insurance. We encourage you to call ahead to ensure you know if any administration charges will apply.

  • Is the vaccine safe for the pediatric population?

    The FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorization to the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine for children ages 5 and older. To obtain this authorization, Pfizer/BioNtech had to show its vaccine is both safe and effective for children in this age range. We encourage you to contact your child’s doctor to see if the vaccine is right for them.

    Clinical trials are ongoing for all three vaccines in children. Pfizer is currently testing its vaccine in children ages 6 months to 4 years old. Moderna is testing its vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 as well as 12 to 17, and J&J is also testing their vaccines in children ages 12 and older with plans to expand their trials to younger children shortly.

  • When can my child get the vaccine?

    The Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine is widely available for children ages 5 to-17. We’re hopeful the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine will finish their clinical trials soon and be available to this same age group in the near future.

    Pfizer is hoping for authorization of their vaccine for children 6 months and older around the new year. Moderna and J&J are a little further behind but hope to have their vaccines authorized for pediatric use in the near future.

    MDA will update these FAQs and the community as soon as access to a COVID-19 vaccine is opened for more children in the neuromuscular community.

  • I've only been doing telehealth visits, is it safe to go out to clinics/pharmacies to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

    While all MDA Care Center sites strive to provide care in the safest manner possible, it’s understandable that NMD patients may not yet feel ready to receive care in the clinic setting. MDA encourages you to discuss this with your healthcare provider before making a vaccination appointment at any location.

  • Is a prescription needed to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

    No, a prescription will not be necessary to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine, though the process of obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine varies by state and local jurisdictions. It is the general intention of Federal and state authorities to make a COVID-19 vaccine similarly accessible as other vaccines, such as the flu shot, that generally do not require a prescription. Should this information change or when we have updates, we will revise accordingly.

  • What did MDA do to ensure that the NMD community got priority access to COVID-19 vaccines?

    MDA engaged with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state and local public health officials to ensure that decisionmakers were aware of the needs of the NMD community to be able to have the earliest possible access to FDA approved COVID vaccine(s). In October 2020, MDA contacted the CDC asking that individuals with neuromuscular diseases should be included in the early phases of vaccination. In December 2020, MDA joined 19 other neuromuscular disease advocacy groups in contacting every state and jurisdiction asking for phase one access to the vaccine for the neuromuscular community. In February of this year, MDA joined partnering organizations to urge CDC to provide further guidance to jurisdictions on including individuals with rare diseases during the “high-risk condition” phase.

  • Additional Information on COVID-19 vaccines

    • Resources provided by American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT) on mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, which includes a short video, FAQ, and an infographic.
    • Visit CDC’s Vaccine Information page to learn more about vaccine safety for you and your family.
    • CDC is making coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination recommendations for the United States based on input from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). ACIP is a federal advisory committee made up of medical and public health experts who develop recommendations on the use of vaccines in the U.S. public. ACIP holds regular meetings, which are open to the public and provide opportunity for public comment.

COVID-19 Recommendations for the Neuromuscular Community

Current guidelines for COVID-19 exposure have focused on specific communities related to risk to travelers, the elderly and those with conditions that affect respiratory health. In order to inform the neuromuscular community of specific information which is relevant to COVID-19, MDA has prepared the following information which expands on the CDC recommendations for the general population in order to keep the neuromuscular community up to date on best practices for managing the global spread of SARS-CoV-2.

A few general points will help patients and families to have a better understanding of the current situation:

  • About COVID-19

    The new virus is called SARS-CoV-2, which is part of the family of betacoronaviruses that are common in people and various animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. The original spread from live animal markets in China has now continued with person to person transmission leading to global spread which is evolving rapidly. The disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 is now known as COVID-19.

    The virus is spread from 1) person-to-person exposure (principal means of transmission) and 2) surfaces exposed to the virus. Exposure is by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes leading to transmission to others in close proximity. A challenge is that some transmission can occur before an infected individual becomes ill making it hard to isolate that individual. The highest risk of spreading is from those that have symptoms of fever and respiratory illness. Late in the illness there is the potential for gastrointestinal infection and exposure from stool. Spreading from infected surfaces can be managed by careful hand washing (see below).

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. People with the following symptoms or combination of symptoms might have contracted COVID-19:

    • Coughing
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

    Or at least two of the following symptoms:

    • Fever, Chills, Repeated shaking with chills, Muscle pain, Headaches, Sore Throat, and New Loss of Taste/Smell
  • What to do if you are sick?

    For neuromuscular disease (NMD) patients, it is important that you seek prompt medical attention if you or anyone in your household is identified with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or for documented exposure to an individual who has tested positive. Before seeking care, you should contact your healthcare provider and tell them that you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has or is being evaluated for COVID-19. It is important to notify your healthcare provider of your symptoms and potential exposure prior to entering a healthcare provider’s office to ensure proper precautions can be taken to help keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected or exposed. Contact your healthcare provider or health department to see if you should be tested. Your healthcare provider will provide guidance for having your symptoms evaluated and monitored.

    If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you or a member of your household has, or is being evaluated for SARS-CoV-2. You should immediately get emergency medical care if you are having an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing. It is important that you call ahead to the facility and notify them if you or a member of your household has or is being evaluated for SARS-CoV-2.

    The CDC has developed guidelines to slow down the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick. The World Muscle Society also has some guidelines for the NMD community surrounding COVID-19.

  • Prevention and Management

    There is currently no preventative vaccine or specific treatment for COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Stay home when you are sick and separate yourself from others until it is safe.
    • Ask your healthcare provider for advice and testing.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, and immediately wash or sanitize your hands
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
    • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a cloth face covering.
      • Choose masks that have two or more layers
      • Make sure mask covers nose and mouth
      • Wash mask regularly
    • CDC does recommend wearing a cloth face covering to reduce the spread of infection in case you are infected and not showing symptoms.
    • Cloth face covering should be used to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of medical grade face masks are reserved for healthcare workers and some first responders.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. For information about hand washing, see CDC’s Handwashing website.
    • Clean hands if you have been in contact with items and surfaces in a public setting that may be touched frequently by other people.
    • For information specific to healthcare, see CDC’s Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings.
    • Practice Social Distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. CDC recommends to stay at least 6 feet apart.

    These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. CDC does have specific guidance for travelers.

  • Caregivers and Household Members

    It is important that caregivers and household members take all necessary precautions to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading the illness to someone with a neuromuscular disease. We recommend that neuromuscular patients and caregivers work together to identify a backup caregiver who will be able to provide care for the neuromuscular patient in the event that the caregiver gets sick. In addition to the preventative measures listed above, caregivers should also wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after providing care (such as feeding, bathing, and dressing), wear a cloth

    face covering, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces to help decrease the risk of exposure for the patient. Use EPA approved disinfectants that are effective against COVID-19.

    The CDC website lists additional precautions for People at Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19 and Guidelines for Caregivers at Home. The World Muscle Society on COVID-19 has additional guidelines for the the NMD community.

  • Guidelines for Healthcare Professionals

  • Reopening Guidelines

  • COVID-19 Clinical Trial

    The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), in coordination with NIH and Operation Warp Speed, has launched a central web portal called Combat COVID (https://combatcovid.hhs.gov/).

    Visit combatCOVID.hhs.gov to learn more and please consider linking to this important public resource from your organization website.

  • Additional Resources

COVID-19 and Myasthenia Gravis/Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome

An international working group of MG experts has just released recommendations regarding treatment practices for MG and Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome (LEMS) during this pandemic of Covid-19. Read the article here, or Download the PDF.

General Information

How to stay prepared from Ready.gov
Resources from the World Health Organization

Resources from the CDC

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention