Photo of CoVID-19 vaccine medication bottleNote: This issue is evolving. We will update this post as news comes out. This post was updated on February 13, 2021. 

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is underway in the United States. Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are available.

Healthcare workers, essential workers, residents in long-term care facilities and people ages 75 and older are among the first groups of people to receive the vaccine. Both of the vaccines are administered in two doses.

What about people with asthma and other respiratory diseases? Here’s what we learned…

Should people with asthma get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes! As soon as people with asthma are eligible for the vaccine, they should get it, says board-certified allergist Purvi Parikh, MD, national spokesperson for Allergy & Asthma Network.

People with underlying medical conditions such as asthma can receive the COVID-19 vaccine as long as they have not had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to the vaccine or any of its ingredients.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with asthma may experience more severe symptoms if they get COVID-19. In general, people with asthma are at higher risk for respiratory viruses. Some may take medications that weaken the body’s immune system.

A recent study suggests the presence of asthma and use of certain asthma medications may offer protective benefits against COVID-19. However, if you have asthma, you still should get the vaccine.

“I encourage everyone who is offered or has access to the vaccine to get it as soon as possible,” Dr. Parikh says.

When are people with asthma eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Guidance for people with asthma is not yet clear. It will depend on the state where you live, your age, comorbidities and your profession. It may also depend on whether asthma is considered a high-risk medical condition.

Here are the phases for vaccine distribution according to CDC:

  • Phase 1a: healthcare workers and residents in long-term care facilities.
  • Phase 1b: people ages 75 and older and non-healthcare frontline essential workers
  • Phase 1c: people ages 65–74, people ages 16–64 years with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers not included in Phase 1b.
  • Phase 2: All people ages 16 or older not already recommended for vaccination in Phases 1a, 1b, or 1c.

CDC recommended on Jan. 12 that states can begin to kick off phase 1c of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. However, most states are still in phase 1a or 1b at this time.

When you do get either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, it’s important to remember to schedule a time for the second dose. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is given 21 days after the first dose, while the second dose of the Moderna vaccine is 28 days

 

Can the COVID-19 vaccine make you sick with COVID-19?

No. You cannot get the COVID-19 virus from the vaccine. It contains an inactivated version of the virus – not the “live” virus.

The vaccine works by teaching the immune system how to recognize and fight the COVID-19 virus. This can cause symptoms, including:

  • fever
  • headache
  • fatigue or
  • muscular or joint pain.

These symptoms are normal as the body builds protection against the virus.

It can take a couple weeks for the body to build immunity. It is possible you could become infected with COVID-19 either just before you’re vaccinated or shortly after, before your body builds protection.

 

What should I do until I’m eligible for the vaccine?

Check the websites of your state and local departments of health for information about vaccine availability in your area.

While you wait, follow all guidance to protect yourself against COVID-19. This includes:

  • Wear a mask
  • Keep at least 6 feet away from others and avoid crowds
  • Wash hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol

 

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If you have asthma, keep it under control by following your Asthma Action Plan and taking your medications as prescribed.