COVID Vaccination Antibodies With RA

In mid-August, another milestone of the COVID-19 pandemic was announced to the public concerning the approval of a third COVID vaccine booster.

New research concluded protection from the first and second vaccines begins to decrease after a certain amount of time.1

Questions about vaccine response and antibodies

In addition, people with compromised immune systems did not build the same immunity from the 2-dose vaccine as the general population and needed extra protection.1

That led me to wonder if I myself had antibodies from the 2-dose vaccine, whether or not I qualified because of RA medications for a booster, and how my current pregnancy (pregnancy is a state of lower immunity) fits into this puzzle.

Here’s what I learned!

COVID vaccine booster recommendations

When the recommendation was announced to the public, I immediately started researching what was considered “immunocompromised” according to the CDC. The list was pretty vague and differed from article to article from what I could see.

However, the recommendations to receive a booster included immunocompromised people who fell into the following categories:1

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

RA medications that suppress the immune system

As many people know, certain medications to treat RA can suppress the immune system, but which ones were included in this list?

According to arthritis.org, those medications include high-dose corticosteroids, alkylating agents, antimetabolites, tumor-necrosis factor (TNF) blockers, and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory.2

Since I took Plaquenil to control my RA, I didn’t think I qualified. But I was still confused after seeing it listed on a hospital website.

Antibodies or not?

After hearing the recommendation and my own confusion around what I was reading, I emailed my rheumatologist to get her opinion. As I expected she had an answer and a suggestion moving forward.

Her thoughts were that I didn’t qualify while taking Plaquenil. Even better news, she believed I most likely had antibodies after receiving both my vaccine doses in February and March.

However, because I was pregnant and to give me some peace of mind, she could write some lab orders checking for the COVID spike protein antibody test to be sure.

If I had antibodies, then no sweat. If not, we knew I needed a booster ASAP. So the lab orders were written and that's exactly what we did!

Spike protein antibodies blood test results

Test results: “REACTIVE.”

A few hours after my blood draw, my test results came back “reactive” indicating that my rheumatologist was correct and I did still have antibodies from the first 2 vaccines.

This was awesome and reassuring news that I had protection against COVID-19 while taking Plaquenil and being pregnant.

Now, I knew that in a few months I would join the others who got their vaccine at the beginning of the year and receive a booster, but I wasn’t in a hurry to do it now.

Do you qualify for a COVID booster with RA? Have you had an antibodies test completed? What did you learn? Share with us below!

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