What's new with COVID-19 vaccines?
Viral variants. So far, COVID-19 vaccines seem to be working against current variants...including the "Delta" variant.
For optimal protection, urge unvaccinated patients to get vaccinated ASAP...or those who've had just one dose of the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to complete the 2-dose series.
Expect COVID-19 vaccine boosters to be coming...to address evolving variants and extend duration of protection.
Pregnancy. So far, pregnancy complications (miscarriage, etc) with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines seem similar to complication rates before the pandemic.
Continue to encourage COVID-19 vaccination in pregnant patients...and get your pharmacist involved to help them make an informed decision. For example, pregnant patients are at higher risk for severe COVID-19.
Immunocompromised patients. Early data suggest that side effects related to COVID-19 immunization in patients with a weakened immune system (cancer, etc) are in line with other patients.
And the vaccines don't seem to trigger disease flares for patients with autoimmune conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's, etc).
But immune response to COVID-19 vaccines may be blunted in some patients...such as after an organ transplant or those on chronic steroids (prednisone, etc).
Make sure to have all patients fill out a vaccine screening questionnaire if your pharmacy administers COVID-19 vaccines. These usually ask about meds and conditions that weaken the immune system to help guide your pharmacist's counselling.
Rare adverse events. Reports from the Canadian Adverse Events Following Immunization Surveillance System often get buzz. Send patients with concerns to your pharmacist...to put things in perspective.
Keep in mind, reports alone can't determine cause and effect.
Be aware, Health Canada uses these data to rapidly spot unusual trends and investigate. For example, recent reports of inflammation of the heart, or myocarditis, show this safety system is working.
- www.canada.ca/content/dam/phac-aspc/documents/services/immunization/national-advisory-committee-on-immunization-naci/recommendations-use-covid-19-vaccines/recommendations-use-covid-19-vaccines-en.pdf (6-28-21)
- www.ontariomidwives.ca/sites/default/files/SOGC_Statement_COVID-19_Vaccination_in_Pregnancy%20-%20May%204%202021.pdf (6-28-21)
- Ann Rheum Dis Published online Mar 24, 2021; doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2021-220272
- JAMA 2021;325(21):2204-6
- medRxiv Published online Apr 9, 2021; doi:10.1101/2021.04.05.21254656
- Pharmacy Technician's Letter Canada. July 2021, No. 370711