Beta thalassemia is the
People with severe forms of beta thalassemia may be at a higher risk of developing severe illness than people in the general population if they’re infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can help people with beta thalassemia prevent severe disease and death.
Read on to learn more about why it’s important for people with beta thalassemia to get vaccinated and why beta thalassemia may increase the risk of severe COVID-19 illness.
Hemoglobin is the iron-containing part of your red blood cells that allows them to carry oxygen throughout your body. Lack of hemoglobin can lead to insufficient oxygen in your bodily tissues. This condition is called anemia.
Thalassemia is classified as
- beta thalassemia minor
- beta thalassemia intermedia
- beta thalassemia major
People with the intermedia or major forms of the disease have HBB mutations from both parents. Beta thalassemia major often needs to be treated with regular blood transfusions.
People with beta thalassemia may be at a higher risk of developing severe disease or death, but studies are conflicting at this time.
People with beta thalassemia
|Pfizer-BioNTech/Moderna||Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen||Novavax|
|2nd dose||Pfizer: 3 weeks after 1st dose|
Moderna: 4 weeks after 1st dose
|A second dose of Pfizer or Moderna at least 4 weeks after 1st dose||3 weeks after 1st dose|
|3rd dose||At least 4 weeks after 2nd dose||At least 2 months after 2dose|
|4th dose||At least 3 months after 3rd dose||At least 4 months after 3rd dose|
|5th dose||At least 4 months after 4th dose|
In this study, the most common side effects in people with thalassemia were:
Researchers are still examining how COVID-19 affects people with beta thalassemia.
In a preprint review of studies from late July 2022, researchers examined how beta thalassemia minor affects outcomes of COVID-19. The researchers found that people with beta thalassemia minor had:
- less susceptibility to developing COVID-19
- fewer intensive care unit (ICU) admissions
- higher severity of disease
- higher susceptibility to dying from COVID-19
However, the researchers didn’t find statistical significance for any of these parameters, so no definitive conclusions can be drawn from the study. These findings may be due to statistical randomness because of the small sample size.
In a very
People with beta thalassemia minor can have anemia so mild they don’t know they have it. People with the most severe form of the disease may require regular blood transfusions. Symptoms of moderate anemia may include:
Beta thalassemia is caused by a genetic mutation inherited from one or both of your parents. Most cases are caused by a mutation in the HBB gene.
If you have potential symptoms of beta thalassemia, a doctor may order a blood test to look for signs of the disease. Most people with beta thalassemia major have symptoms within the first 2 years of life.
Treatment can include:
People with beta thalassemia minor might never know they have the disease. Severe thalassemia used to be fatal by early adulthood, but now people frequently live into their 60s or beyond.
Here are some frequently asked questions people have about beta thalassemia and COVID-19 vaccines.
Who should not get vaccinated?
According to the
Who is exempt from vaccination requirements?
Most states offer religious exemptions from school vaccine requirements, and some provide exemptions on philosophical grounds. Exemptions may be granted for people with severe allergies to COVID-19 vaccines or any of their components.
Should you get the COVID vaccine if you have an autoimmune disease?
The current evidence suggests that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the risk of side effects for most people with autoimmune disease, according to the Global Autoimmune Institute, which reviewed the available scientific literature.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe if you have heart problems?
Vaccination is particularly important for people with cardiovascular disease because they’re more likely to develop
Vaccines can help people with beta thalassemia lower their chances of getting COVID-19 or having severe illness if they do get COVID-19.
Some research suggests that people with beta thalassemia may be at an elevated risk of developing severe illness or death from COVID-19, but research is still mixed. In general, people with severe diseases are at a higher risk from COVID-19.
There are no extra safety precautions necessary for people with beta thalassemia who get vaccinated against COVID-19 when compared with people in the general population. If you have concerns, speak with a doctor or healthcare professional about your individual risks.