Covid-19: ‘I have an autoimmune condition, so I thought I wouldn’t get vaccinated’

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  • A 39-year-old woman with an autoimmune condition didn't want to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
  • She had concerns about safety, as people in this group weren't initially included in the trials.
  • After exposure to credible information, she went for her first jab.

The evidence on Covid-19 clearly shows that people with autoimmune diseases might be at increased risk of developing severe infection, should they contract the virus, which stresses the importance of vaccination for this group. 

But for Ayesha Jassiem, a 39-year-old woman who's living with ulcerative colitis (UC), an autoimmune condition, taking the Covid-19 vaccine when it became available wasn’t a priority.

“My autoimmune condition is associated with my cells not knowing how to attack a virus, and so I searched the internet to see if anyone else with the same condition had taken the vaccine, and if there were any side effects or deaths as a result. But I didn’t find anything, so I thought I wouldn’t get vaccinated,” she told Health24.

And she’s not the only one. Covid vaccine acceptance in people with autoimmune diseases is likely to be low since they were mostly excluded from the initial vaccine trials. Researchers previously showed that more than a third of patients with autoimmune diseases remained hesitant about Covid vaccination, due to safety concerns.

vaccine hesitancy
Image: Supplied

Not a live virus

Eventually, Ayesha found a few articles about people in the UK with UC who received the Covid vaccine, and had no serious adverse events.

“There was also an article from a doctor explaining why it is safe for UC patients to take the vaccine,” she added. 

“The doctor explained that it wasn’t a live virus that gets injected into you. If it was a live virus then there would be concerns, because then your body would need to know how to react to it, but because it’s not a live virus, an autoimmune disease wouldn’t need to figure out what to do with it,” she said.

This convinced her to register and get vaccinated. She has received her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and will soon receive her second dose.

Making a concerted effort

“My strong belief is that while I know that everything is in the hands of God, at the end of the day; the Quran does say that ‘[God] helps those who help themselves’, so you have to make a concerted effort to take care of yourself and use the available methods to help protect you against Covid,” said Ayesha.

She added: “If you take the vaccine you will have a stronger chance of fighting Covid than if you don’t take it.”

Personal choice, but do your research

Choosing whether to get vaccinated against Covid should be a personal choice, believes Ayesha, but offered words of advice.

“Unfortunately, some people don’t have the knowledge; they don’t do the research, and end up focusing on the negatives of the vaccines,” such as the extremely rare, severe side effects, she said.

“My advice is to do your research and look at the numbers. You’ll realise that there are way more pros than cons with the Covid vaccine,” she added.

CDC recommendation

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people with autoimmune diseases and those with weakened immune systems be vaccinated against Covid. 

“People with autoimmune conditions were enrolled in Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials. Safety and efficacy of vaccines in this population were similar to the general population,” it states.

Experts have also previously explained that, compared to the general population, patients with autoimmune conditions may be at increased risk for Covid-related hospitalisation, suggesting that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.

*For more Covid-19 research, science and news, click here. You can also sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter here.

READ | 'Covid was an awful experience': Once vaccine hesitant, one woman now eagerly awaits her second jab

READ | Just the facts: Experts take on inaccurate claims in top doctor's Covid-19 vaccine video

READ | How years of vaccine groundwork allowed the Covid-19 jabs to be developed in under a year

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