Most of these questions will have one or a few direct sources for more information so you can further educate yourself. Some of these answers have direct links to where the question was answered by one of our COVID-19 Expert Team doctors during a webinar.
While individuals from racialized communities are more likely to live and work in conditions that make it more difficult to protect themselves from exposure to COVID-19, having sickle cell disease (SCD) does not itself increase your likelihood of being infected with the virus. It does appear, however, to increase your risk of being hospitalized or dying as a result. This is likely because patients with sickle cell disease often have both weakened immune systems and pre-existing organ damage, particularly in their lungs. In one study, the risk of dying was seven times higher than age-matched controls.
No, the COVID vaccine will work and hydroxyurea will not interfere with the vaccine response. You can continue taking all of your other sickle cell disease medications (like hydroxyurea) as you usually do.
Vaccination is strongly recommended for persons with sickle cell disease.
Normally, companies wait to invest in the mass production of vaccines until clinical trials have shown them to be safe and effective; doing otherwise poses a large financial risk. In the case of COVID-19 vaccine development, however, governments largely assumed that financial risk to decrease the wait before mass vaccination campaigns could begin. As a result, when the clinical trials of the vaccines available in Canada showed they were safe and effective, there was a very little delay before mass production could start.
Nonetheless, we still have the assurance that the tens of thousands of people who participated in the clinical trials, as well as the many millions of people who went on to have the vaccines outside of the clinical trials, haven’t suffered from very adverse reactions. This includes patients with sickle cell disease. At this point, waiting any longer before receiving the vaccine is unlikely to reveal any new information about side effects and will only increase the risk of developing COVID-19, which is many times more dangerous, both to you and to the friends, family, and co-workers you might spread it to.
COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for individuals with sickle cell disease. COVID-19 vaccination has the benefits of reducing the risk of contracting or getting sick from the COVID-19 virus.
There is no evidence to suggest that vaccines affect fertility. This has been a common question due to a look-a-like antibody from the vaccine and the womb. Further research suggests it is not a concern, and that all women who are pregnant or wishing to become pregnant should get vaccinated for COVID-19.
According to Dr. Leis from the Sunnybrook Hospital, “There is no scientific reason that the vaccine would impact fertility.” This statement was also echoed by Dr. Modupe ByAss, an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist from the North York General Hospital who sits on the COVID-19 Expert Team of the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario.
Note: Some women do notice changes in their monthly cycle with the vaccine, which is usually only noticed for a short time before returning to normal. This is believed to be due to transient changes brought about by the immune response to the vaccine and is not felt to affect reproduction.
While patients with sickle cell disease were not included in the original group of people in the COVID-19 vaccine research, many patients with sickle cell have been vaccinated since then and have done very well. Extensive research with other vaccines has shown that patients with sickle cell disease have good responses to the vaccines and no added increased risks.
The COVID-19 vaccine is strongly recommended in patients with sickle cell disease because of the risk of severe disease if you get sick. And earlier vaccination has played an important part in improving care for patients with hemoglobin disorders.
No, there are no increased risks of blood clots and yes, patients with a history of blood clots should still get the vaccine, whether or not they are on blood thinners.
After getting COVID, people do get an immune response, but this varies from person to person and it depends on whether you had a mild or more severe infection. And we know from many studies now that if you’ve had a very mild or asymptomatic infection, then many people may have very low levels of antibodies that form. So this is why we still recommend that even if you’ve had a COVID infection, you should go ahead and take the vaccine when it’s available to you because the vaccine serves as a boost to the immune system. -Dr. Swaminathan, WHO, 2021
Watch & Read–Do I still need the vaccine if I have had COVID-19?
Side effects from the vaccine are possible. The most common side effects are an ache for 1-2 days at the site of injection, headache, fever, and body aches. These side effects go away after a few days. It is unlikely that the vaccine will trigger a sickle cell crisis, but if anyone has severe symptoms they should seek medical attention.
If you have had an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe—to a vaccine or injectable therapy for another disease, ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated. CDC recommends that people get vaccinated even if they have a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications—such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.
Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect the PCR or antigen test results because these tests check for active disease, not immunity. There is no virus present in the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccine is intended to cause an immune response, so the serology test (antibody test) may be positive in someone who has been vaccinated.
Read More: Here
Even if you have not been vaccinated, we can still test you to see if you have antibodies to the COVID 19 either because you had been diagnosed previously with COVID or because you had an infection that was not associated with any symptoms.
We are particularly eager to work with persons with sickle cell disease due largely to the fact that such persons are more at risk of having severe outcomes from COVID. Thus ensuring that they are protected is of great importance. Adults, as well as children, are included.
At the moment the project is being done in Canada. However, we do expect to collaborate with others outside of Canada, including the Caribbean.
I am leading the project and I am working closely with other doctors including Dr. Melanie Kirby and Dr. Isaac Odame. We are based at SickKids Hospital in Toronto.
You would have to complete a consent form, a quick questionnaire, and a simple blood test. Also, everyone that participates gets a Tim Hortons gift card. We are able to do the consent and questionnaire over the phone at your convenience.
- Can the antibody testing tell whether they were formed in response to COVID-19 or the vaccine? Also, can current antibodies neutralize new variants? - Dr Upton Allen
COVID-19-Ask-A-Doc| April 28, 2022
Vaccine Hesitancy in the Sickle Cell Disease/Black Community- A Public Health Agency of Canada sponsored study
- What are some details about the study? - SCAGO
- How does the study look at vaccine hesitancy differently? - SCAGO
- What is the goal of the project? - SCAGO
- By when do you expect your goals to be achieved? - SCAGO
- How is information for the study gathered? - SCAGO
- What is your current stage in planning? - SCAGO
- Are participants outside of Toronto unable to participate in the study? - SCAGO
- What kinds of participants are you hoping to recruit? - SCAGO
- Where can one find more information and/or sign-up? - SCAGO
- Could people with SCD experience less crises with a double dose? - SCAGO
- How many doses are recommended for those with SCD? - SCAGO
- What is cross-sectional observation and how is it used in the study? - SCAGO
- What are the benefits of participating in this kind of study? - SCAGO
- How will the information collected benefit the community? - SCAGO
- Can anyone participate in the study? - SCAGO