Update: we all need to be advocates for the COVID-19 vaccine if we want to see the full impact of this amazing advancement in science and public health take hold. If you haven't yet, take the time to educate yourself and then become an advocate to support others in their vaccine journey!
Since the first approvals back in mid-December, I've been wondering how the COVID-19 vaccine recommendations may look for patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Since I'm taking multiple immune-suppressing medications, I've been doubly concerned with how, not only COVID-19, but also the vaccines to eradicate it, may impact me. As the director of COVID operations for my organization, i've been recommending the following steps to anyone thinking about the vaccine:
1. Know your state's unique vaccination allocation plan. Each state has their own process for rolling out the vaccine. In some states, it's possible that your occupation may qualify you for the vaccine before your health status does. I have also seen age driving many state's plans. A simple google search will bring you to your state's webpage - make sure to connect with whomever should be advocating on your behalf.
2. Advocate, but also have patience if your state is requiring physician referral for the vaccine. In my home state, our health care providers are not entirely sure, yet, how to even get patients onto the registries which are slowed even further by out-of-date technology. Do reach out now, though, to start the conversation if you have unique questions or concerns that you hope to have answered in order to make your vaccine decision.
3. Sign up for your patient portal -- it's the best way to keep up-to-date on your healthcare provider's plans and vaccine developments. Help sign your aging family members up, too, and be prepared to help them through what may be a clunky tech process.
4. Review disease-specific vaccine guidance. Patients with IBD were not included in the early research trials for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, but that didn't stop dedicated IBD leaders from around the globe to put together some guidance to jump-start the decision making process. All patients should review IBD-specific vaccine guidance from The International Organization for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IOIBD), found here.
The IOIBD is recommending that IBD patients should receive the vaccine and at the earliest opportunity to do so.
5. Join a vaccine registry for those with IBD to help the world continue to study the efficacy of these vaccines in our population. While registries aren't up and running just yet, they should be very soon, so keep an eye out!
6. Remember not to stop following CDC guidance just yet. Vaccines are a powerful step to protect ourselves and others, but there is no 100% effective vaccine, so we all have to continue to wear our masks, social distance, and wash hands (I know, i'm super over all of it, too... but it's so important!).
Finally, once you make a decision for yourself, help encourage your family and friends to go through this process for themselves -- keeping the entire family and friend group protected will only help us better protect ourselves, too!