Gout is a type of arthritis that causes pain and swelling in your joints, usually in your feet. It often affects one joint at a time, most commonly your big toes.

Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid, known as hyperuricemia. Gout usually manifests as sudden painful episodes (flares) that last from a few days to a couple of weeks followed by remission. Repeated flares of gout can lead to gouty arthritis, an advanced form of gout.

If you have gout, you may have heard that some people avoid COVID-19 vaccination because they are worried it may cause gout to flare up. Although it’s true that some vaccines can increase your risk for a flare, gout experts still strongly recommend not to opt out of the shot. Let’s figure out why.

The data

Some vaccines can increase your risk for a gout flare in the days following the shot. For example, a shingles vaccine can slightly increase your odds of having a gout episode.

But what about COVID-19 vaccines? Can they make your gout flare up? Scientists from China decided to answer this question by studying 462 people with gout who received COVID-19 vaccines. Researchers discovered that 44 percent of study participants did experience a gout attack, usually within 1 month after receiving the shot. The good news is that colchicine, a common gout drug, decreased the chance of a flare almost in half in those who were on it when they received their shot.

Does this mean you should skip the shot?

Don’t skip your COVID-19 shot. Here’s why.

An important thing to remember about this study is that it was done in China, which has different COVID-19 vaccines than the United States. Most people in this study received a vaccine called Sinovac Life, which is not used in the United States.

Additionally, this vaccine is based on an inactivated virus, while the most popular COVID-19 vaccines in the country, Pfizer and Moderna, are mRNA-based. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is based on an inactivated virus, but there is no data suggesting it could cause a gout flare.

There is no need to take colchicine before your vaccine appointment. However, if you do decide do try it, speak to your doctor first.

If you’re still on the fence about getting vaccinated, remember that COVID-19 can carry significant risks for those with gout.

Although gout doesn’t increase your chances of getting COVID-19, if you do get it, you may develop complications. This is because people with gout often have other health issues alongside with it, such as:

In addition, if you take corticosteroids (for example, prednisone) for gout flares, this can also contribute to more severe case of COVID-19.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccine boosters to everyone who received their first series. This is because the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines decreases over time.

Even if you do catch COVID-19 after receiving a booster, it should protect you from a severe case. Since gout and its accompanying conditions make you more prone to COVID-19 complications, it’s important to get a booster if you have gout.

To find out how soon you can get a booster, check the CDC website.

Certain people are eligible to receive a second booster. Make sure to schedule this appointment if you are:

All of the vaccines approved in the United States do a good job of decreasing your chance for severe COVID-19, which you want to avoid if you have gout. However, the CDC now recommends either mRNA vaccine over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This is due to higher effectiveness of this type of vaccine and fewer severe side effects.

Effectiveness of different types of vaccines was not studied specifically in people with gout. But a recent study — including over 5,000 people with rheumatic conditions from 30 different countries — showed that available COVID-19 vaccines are equally safe and effective.

Although gout is not a contraindication for any COVID-19 vaccines (meaning medications for gout do not decrease the effectiveness of the vaccine), people with certain additional medical conditions should not receive some or any COVID-19 shots:

  • people with a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to any of the components of either an mRNA or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should not receive that vaccine
  • those who are allergic to polyethylene glycol (PEG) mRNA vaccines
  • people allergic to polysorbate should not receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine
  • those with allergies to any vaccine or injectable (intramuscular or intravenous) medication should consult with their doctor before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine
  • anyone younger than 5 years old is not yet eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. This, however, may change soon.

If you have gout, you should get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect yourself from a severe disease. This is important because people with gout can develop complications from the virus that causes it.

Although one recent study suggests that COVID-19 vaccines used in China can trigger a gout flare, this shouldn’t discourage you from getting vaccinated. Not only the risk is low and potentially preventable, but the vaccines used in China aren’t used in the United States.