May 11, 2022

Fibromyalgia and the COVID vaccine: side effects, safety, flare-ups

The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for people with fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by widespread pain and tenderness throughout the body.

People with fibromyalgia often live with other chronic conditions that can increase their risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. And even a mild case of COVID-19 can cause a flare-up of fibromyalgia symptoms.

Fortunately, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for people with fibromyalgia. If you have fibromyalgia, getting vaccinated and keeping up to date with recalls is the best way to protect yourself.

People with fibromyalgia face unique challenges when they get sick. Research published in 2021 found that, overall, fibromyalgia symptoms may worsen in people diagnosed with COVID-19.

As such, the COVID-19 vaccine may have the added benefit of helping to prevent a worsening of fibromyalgia symptoms that you may already be dealing with on a daily basis.

Additionally, physical stress from an infection can trigger a flare-up of symptoms. Fibromyalgia flare-ups are times when fibromyalgia symptoms get worse than usual.

Emotional stress can also lead to a flare-up. Getting vaccinated can help provide peace of mind, which benefits your physical and mental health. When you’re fully immunized, you can go out and socialize with more confidence, an important part of maintaining your mental well-being.

Some people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine will have no side effects. When they occur, some of the most common vaccine side effects include:

These side effects are a sign that your body’s immune system is reacting to the vaccine. They should disappear within a few days.

Some of the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine overlap with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. You may feel that your fibromyalgia symptoms worsen slightly in the days following your shot.

Testimonials of people with fibromyalgia also contain no mention of flare-ups after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Also a 2015 study found that fibromyalgia symptoms did not change after participants received the flu shot, which has similar side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine.

There are no specific COVID-19 vaccination recommendations for people with fibromyalgia. If you have fibromyalgia, you should follow general recommendations for people in your age group.

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age 5 and older get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The table below outlines the current COVID-19 vaccine recommendations at the time of publication.

According to the CDC, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, both mRNA vaccines, are preferable to the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. Indeed, mRNA vaccines are more effective and have a better overall safety profile than the J&J vaccine.

Clinical trials revealed that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were 95 percent and 94.1%, respectively, effective in preventing COVID-19. However, these numbers have dropped with the emergence of new virus variants.

Although their effectiveness in preventing infections has declined, mRNA vaccines still prevent serious illness and hospitalizations. Studies have found that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Modern vaccines remain highly effective in preventing hospitalization due to the Omicron variant.

Research from 2021 found that fibromyalgia itself does not put you at increased risk for severe COVID-19. However, many people with fibromyalgia have other health conditions (comorbidities) that increase the risk for severe COVID-19.

The following are examples of such conditions:

  • autoimmune diseases
  • Diabetes
  • heart disease
  • obesity

Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine significantly reduces the likelihood of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.

Some of the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those you might experience with fibromyalgia, including:

However, several other symptoms can indicate that you may have contracted SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These include:

If you develop concerning symptoms and think you might have COVID-19, it is important to get tested. PCR and antigen tests can detect ongoing infections.

Use the Department of Health and Human Services research tool to find community testing centres. You can also get home COVID-19 tests at your local pharmacy or order free home tests of the government.

Some insurers, including Medicare, may cover the costs of home testing or offer reimbursements. Check with your provider for details.

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for people with fibromyalgia. There are currently no reports of significant side effects in people with fibromyalgia who have been vaccinated. Developing COVID-19 can make fibromyalgia symptoms worse. Getting vaccinated will help protect you against serious illness and prevent a mild case of COVID-19 from potentially triggering a flare-up of fibromyalgia symptoms.

There are no specific COVID-19 vaccine guidelines for people with fibromyalgia. Overall, the CDC recommends that anyone age 5 and older gets a full series of vaccines and booster shots.

If you have any questions or concerns about the vaccine, be sure to discuss them with a doctor.

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