Experts recommend that people with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19. People with PsA may have a reduced response to the vaccine and may need an extra dose. The benefits of vaccination significantly outweigh any potential risks.

When you live with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), you may spend a lot of time thinking about how to best manage your health. You have appointments to keep and treatments to consider. On top of that, you have other health decisions to make.

One of those decisions is whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine. You may worry that the COVID-19 vaccine could cause your PsA to flare. It may also feel like the guidelines about COVID-19 vaccines are always changing. This can be confusing.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for people with PsA. Though there are some risks for people with PsA, the risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 is much greater.

Some of your PsA medications may suppress your immune system. This may increase your chance of getting COVID-19 and having worse symptoms.

Vaccines can help protect against severe illness. This is true for anyone living with an autoimmune condition.

If you’re undecided, it’s an important discussion to have with a doctor. Learning more about the COVID-19 vaccine can also help you make this decision. Keep reading to find answers to common questions about PsA and the COVID-19 vaccine.

Yes. Experts encourage people with PsA to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s important to get the primary doses and to stay up-to-date with boosters.

The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) has released guidance statements about COVID-19 to help people and healthcare professionals navigate decisions about COVID-19.

The NPF suggests that people with PsA get at least two primary COVID-19 vaccines. You may need a third dose if you take medications that lower your immune response.

Vaccines trigger your immune system to make antibodies. These antibodies fight off infections in your body. If you take medications that suppress your immune system, you will make fewer antibodies after getting a vaccine.

A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can help your body make more antibodies to protect you. This third shot is still part of the primary series, not the booster.

A healthcare professional can let you know whether a third dose is a good idea for you. If you need it, the NPF recommends you get that extra dose 28 days after your second COVID-19 vaccine.

A booster shot is a little different. It helps to maintain protection months after your primary dose. Some people received two shots of the original booster.

A new bivalent booster is now available. It helps protect against newer variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people ages 5 and older can get an updated booster 2 months after their previous shot, whether it was a primary dose or the original booster.

Should I get the updated bivalent booster?

If it’s been 2 months since you had your primary series, you can receive a booster shot.

Your primary series may have been two or three COVID-19 vaccinations. The booster helps to maintain antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Over time, these antibody levels start to drop. The booster helps increase antibody levels again.

On August 31, 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized bivalent boosters for people ages 12 and older. Bivalent boosters help protect against two different strains of SARS-CoV-2 that cause COVID-19:

Bivalent boosters provide better protection against COVID-19. If you are due for a booster shot, a healthcare professional will likely offer you a bivalent booster. You can ask them to be sure.

Was this helpful?

Yes. Multiple studies and the CDC confirm that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe. A 2021 study also notes that the vaccine is safe for people with PsA.

Still, mild side effects are common. They are a sign that your immune system is responding to the vaccine and creating antibodies.

Some people have no side effects. This does not mean that the vaccine is not working.

Common side effects include:

  • pain and redness at the site of injection
  • mild fever
  • nausea
  • body aches
  • headache

PsA treatment often involves medications that suppress your immune system. This helps reduce the immune response that causes the symptoms of PsA.

Vaccines work by triggering your immune system to create antibodies. COVID-19 vaccines create antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This way, your immune system has a head start to fight off an infection in the case of exposure.

But when you have a lower immune response, your body doesn’t make as many antibodies after getting a vaccine. This means that PsA medications may cause the vaccine to be less effective.

Research from 2022 suggests that people who take PsA medications have a reduced response to the vaccine. But the research also suggests that they still create antibodies similar in number to people who don’t take PsA medications. The effect may also depend on which medications you take.

Other research from 2021 suggests that the reduced response may be due to PsA itself rather than the medication.

When new vaccines are in clinical trials, one of the major outcomes is to look at the immune response. The trials revealed that two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine could create enough antibodies to be protective. That’s why the primary series includes two doses of the vaccine.

The recommendations are different for people with weakened immune systems. You may need three COVID-19 vaccinations as your primary series. A reduced immune response means you need the extra dose to create enough antibodies.

There are four COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use by the FDA. They include three different classes of COVID-19 vaccine:

The NPF advises that mRNA vaccines are the first choice for people with psoriasis or PsA. Depending on the type of vaccine that you get, you may have a slightly different schedule for your doses. Make sure you understand the plan with your healthcare team.

The COVID-19 vaccine is unlikely to interfere with your medications. Taking medications that reduce your immune response may affect how the vaccine works for you.

The typical two-dose primary series won’t be enough to create a protective immune response. Experts recommend a third dose for anyone taking immunosuppressants. According to the CDC, this third dose can help you produce enough antibodies.

In some cases, a doctor may advise you to stop taking immunosuppressants before getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This may increase the body’s response to the vaccine. But most of the time, this is not necessary.

It can be disruptive to stop medications, and it can cause changes in other parts of your health. You can discuss this with a doctor.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause PsA?

The FDA documents reports of adverse effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. They use these reports and data from the clinical trials to continually monitor vaccine safety.

There are a few cases where PsA flares or new cases of PsA developed around the time of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s unclear whether the COVID-19 vaccine caused these. Many factors can increase the risk of a PsA flare.

There is also research from 2022 that explores a potential link between COVID-19 and autoimmune conditions.

Still, the benefit of getting vaccinated outweighs any risks. If you can, you may want to get vaccinated to reduce the effects of COVID-19.

Was this helpful?

Experts recommend that people with PsA get the COVID-19 vaccine. Research has shown that the four available vaccines are safe and effective, including for people with PsA. Being vaccinated includes a primary vaccine series and boosters as needed.

If you take medications that suppress your immune system, you will likely need an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Your immune system will be unable to create enough antibodies from two primary doses. Studies show that a third primary COVID-19 vaccine can help you create enough antibodies to help protect you.