• Amy Suto

Getting the COVID Vaccine When You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis: Vaccine Side Effects & More

I just got my COVID vaccine (the Johnson & Johnson one) and have successfully avoided the global plague so far! I can't tell you ~how~ deeply excited I am.

My partner Kyle and I got vaccinated by some wonderful national guard folks at a clinic near us in Galena, Illinois.

I don't know if I mentioned, but we're currently living in this insane abandoned orphanage-turned-rental property in this gorgeous little town. We're both digital nomads, and we're here with a friend as part of our year long work/travel setup. It's been lovely so far, and I write more about our travels on my main blog, AmySuto.com.

Anyways -- back to the COVID vaccine!

Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients and the COVID Vaccine: What You Need to Know

Touch base with your doctor about the COVID vaccine and your current condition, but as of right now there's not a ton of info about how it affects people with RA or other autoimmune diseases, and there's no reason to believe that we shouldn't get vaccinated. (More good FAQs on this Arthritis.org article.)

Before getting the COVID vaccine, be sure to check with your doctor for specific instructions related to your medication. Mine told me to stop my methotrexate for the week I was getting the vaccine. This is precautionary as there isn't enough data about how our medications might interact with the vaccine.

Because those of us with autoimmune diseases like RA are often on DMARDs and other drugs that suppress our immune system, it's riskier for us to get COVID, even if we have to brave some of the risks of the vaccine.

Think about it this way: COVID has a really high mortality rate for those of us who are immunocompromised. Wouldn't you rather roll the dice with a vaccine that has (as of right now) rare side effects compared to the risk of getting COVID?

In summary: everyone should get a vaccine, particularly those of us with rheumatoid arthritis. And as eligibility expands, everyone should be able to get one soon.

Now, I did have some side effects from the COVID vaccine, but they were fairly minor.

COVID Vaccine Side Effects: Johnson & Johnson

I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine right as they put it on pause because of the rare blood clot side effect (lucky us) but as of right now I haven't died (fingers crossed) from a more severe complication.

The evening of the day I got the COVID vaccine, I started to not feel well. I developed chills, a fever, and a headache.

The next day, my fever got a little better but my body felt achey and I felt super fatigued, so I stayed in bed all day watching TV. My partner also had a headache and didn't feel well.

The following day, I felt pretty much completely better with the exception of a lingering headache, but more rest helped that go away.

Now, I feel fine and am glad to be protected against COVID. The peace of mind is worth it!

Remember, it takes some time for these things to kick in, so even if you're vaccinated, maybe hold off on going to any underground raves for awhile until you're fully protected.

Good luck and stay safe!