Autoimmune diseases are a wide range of related illnesses in which a person’s immune system attacks their own tissues. In normal conditions, antibodies are produced to protect the body from bacteria or viruses that have entered the system. But sometimes these defense mechanisms mistakenly go after healthy cells that are meant to be protected. This can lead to the development of an autoimmune disease.
According to statistics, autoimmune diseases affect more than 24 million people in the United States.
Patients with autoimmune diseases take medications that suppress their immune system to lessen the impact of the disease, but this can leave them more vulnerable to COVID-19. These patients may also have poorer responses to the COVID-19 vaccines. The Autoimmune Association advises that these people need to follow the guidelines from the CDC and talk with their physicians to ensure that the therapy will work well in combination with a COVID-19 vaccine.
The FDA has also approved the use of the drug Evusheld from AstraZeneca for the prevention of COVID-19 in certain cases, including immunocompromised patients, a group that includes those with autoimmune diseases.
“Vaccines have proven to be the best defense available against COVID-19. However, there are certain immune compromised individuals who may not mount an adequate immune response to COVID-19 vaccination, or those who have a history of severe adverse reactions to a COVID-19 vaccine and therefore cannot receive one and need an alternative prevention option,” said Patrizia Cavazzoni, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
Evusheld combines tixagevimab and cilgavimab, both monoclonal antibodies that are focused on attacking the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus, and are designed to obstruct the attachment of COVID-19 and its entrance into the cells, the FDA says.
The World Health Organization announced last week that it has added Molnupiravir, an antiviral drug, to its recommended treatments for COVID-19, for certain groups of patients, including people with immune problems.
Autoimmune Awareness Month
March is Autoimmune Awareness Month, and the Autoimmune Association advised that all patients, healthcare providers, and caregivers should grasp this opportunity and advocate and raise their voices for driving a change.
The Autoimmune Association said that raising awareness is crucial to bolstering research and education, but also for providing a basis for future patient-centered reforms in this area.