Updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and the development of a vaccine are changing rapidly as news emerges nearly daily from the United States federal government. Here in this blog, Parkinson’s medical, research and policy experts put the news in context for people and families with Parkinson’s disease (PD). For the most up-to-date information, be sure to check in with your local health department, physician and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
[October 22, 2021]
CDC Recommends Booster of All Three COVID Vaccines in U.S.
On October 21, 2021, the CDC recommended a booster of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccines for certain populations. This is in addition to the previous recommendation of Pfizer COVID vaccine boosters for specific groups. Read about who is eligible and when on the CDC’s website. Eligible individuals can choose which vaccine to receive as a booster, “mixing and matching” with a different booster from their original vaccine. Talk with your doctor about which booster may be best for you.
[September 28, 2021]
CDC Recommends Pfizer COVID Booster Shots for Certain Groups
On September 24, 2021, the CDC endorsed the ACIP’s recommendation for booster shots of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for certain populations and for those in high-risk settings. The CDC recommends booster shots for:
- people aged 65 and up
- people aged 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions
- people aged 18 and up living in long-term care settings
The Pfizer booster shot is recommended at least six months after completion of the full two-dose series of the Pfizer vaccine.
Younger groups with underlying medical conditions or at increased risk of COVID exposure (such as those who work in health care settings) are also eligible for Pfizer booster shots.
Boosters are not yet recommended for those who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. As soon as data is available, the CDC plans to evaluate and make a recommendation about boosters for these vaccines.
Speak with your doctor about whether you are eligible for a booster and for answers to any other questions.
[August 23, 2021]
Pfizer Vaccine Receives Full FDA Approval
On August 23, 2021, the FDA approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 16 and up. (The vaccine is still available under emergency use for people aged 12 to 15 and for a third dose in immunocompromised individuals.)
“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD.
[August 19, 2021]
Experts Outline Plan for COVID Booster Shots
On August 18, 2021, the CDC and medical experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a statement detailing plans to broadly offer vaccine booster doses. Booster are necessary because, although vaccines are very effective, their effectiveness wanes over time.
Pending full FDA approval of vaccines, experts are preparing to begin booster shots in September 2021 for people who received a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least eight months prior. As more data emerges on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which became available later than the others, experts will update recommendations.
[August 16, 2021]
FDA Authorizes Vaccine Booster Shot for Certain Groups
On August 13, 2021, the FDA authorized a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for people with weak immune systems. This includes people who have organ transplants or cancer, for example, or who take medications that decrease the immune response. Data suggests these individuals have lower or shorter-lasting protection after the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and that they are at risk for more significant symptoms with the virus. Learn more, including who is eligible, when to get the booster, and answers to other questions.
Because Parkinson’s does not affect the immune response, a booster is not currently recommended for people with PD. The recommendation also does not include older people or people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Researchers will continue to monitor and update recommendations as needed.
[August 6, 2021]
Getting a COVID Vaccine Protects You and Others in the Parkinson’s Community
As a research organization serving the Parkinson’s community, The Michael J. Fox Foundation — with support of our Scientific Advisory Board and Patient Council — endorses the CDC recommendation that everyone age 12 and older get vaccinated.
[July 28, 2021]
CDC Recommends Masks for Vaccinated
COVID infections are again, unfortunately, rising across the nation. Experts believe this is because of a more contagious version of the virus (the delta variant) and in some areas, lower vaccination rates. Right now, most people with severe infection or hospitalization are unvaccinated. Meaning: the vaccines seem to be working to prevent severe symptoms. But researchers are concerned vaccinated people might get COVID without symptoms and, unknowingly, contribute to virus spread.
To limit this spread, the CDC has issued new guidance. They now recommend that, in areas with high rates of COVID transmission, everyone — including vaccinated people — wear masks inside in public. (Check your local and state health departments for information and guidelines.) The CDC also suggests that people who are at risk for more severe COVID symptoms, such as those who are older or have advancing Parkinson’s or other conditions, consider wearing masks regardless of their area’s infection rates.
Parkinson’s experts recommend that all people with Parkinson’s get a vaccine (unless there is a specific reason not to) as, in general, the risk of COVID infection outweighs any potential risk with vaccines. (Read more.)
Information on the virus and vaccines continues to evolve. You can contribute your experience by filling out a survey through MJFF’s online clinical study, Fox Insight. Whether you just registered or you’re already in the study, find the questionnaire in the Survey Center under Related Research.
[April 26, 2021]
CDC and FDA Lift Pause on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
After a thorough review of available safety data and extensive education of health care providers, the CDC and FDA recommended lifting the pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. The pause was placed after rare, but serious, blood clots were reported following the vaccine. The risk of these side effects remains very low. A new warning has been added to the vaccine label and the CDC and FDA will continue investigating the issue and monitoring safety data. Learn more.
[April 13, 2021]
CDC and FDA Recommend Pausing Johnson & Johnson Vaccine in the U.S.
Out of an abundance of caution, the CDC and FDA are recommending a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. More than 6.8 million doses of this vaccine have been administered in the United States. Recently, there have been reports of blood clots in six people after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. (This is less than one per million vaccine doses.)
Soon, the CDC will meet with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to investigate these cases, review the data and assess next steps.
If you have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and are experiencing any new symptoms, talk with your provider. If you were scheduled to get this vaccine, ask about availability of the two other currently approved vaccine options.
[March 17, 2021]
Continued Advocacy around Vaccine Access for People with PD
MJFF’s public policy team leads the Unified Parkinson’s Advocacy Council (UPAC), which consists of state, regional and national organizations who gather information on the priorities of people with Parkinson's to ensure community needs are represented in one unified voice.
Last week, UPAC members authored a letter to every United States governor, asking them to prioritize people with PD for COVID-19 vaccines. You can take action on this issue, too — click here to send an email to your governor.
[March 9, 2021]
Parkinson’s Community Members Share Experience with Vaccine
Recently, MJFF has heard from a few community members that Parkinson’s symptoms increased after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. Some had prolonged fatigue or nausea. Others, stiffness and heaviness in the legs. Still others, less medication benefit. Most people, though, report only expected side effects, such as a sore arm, muscle aches and mild fatigue. While everyone’s experience is different, movement disorder experts recommend the vaccine for people with Parkinson’s, finding no current evidence that vaccines impact underlying disease or medication effects. Talk with your doctor about any concerns or symptoms you have. And report unusual side effects to the CDC, which collects and monitors safety information.
[March 8, 2021]
Article Compares Authorized COVID-19 Vaccines
An article in MedPage Today provides an overview of the three authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S, showing details such as efficacy and dosing schedule. For vaccination locations and the latest information on who is eligible, visit your state’s website or check with your local health department, doctor, or area clinics or hospitals.
[March 1, 2021]
FDA Authorizes Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 Vaccine
On February 26, an FDA committee of experts recommended the emergency use authorization of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine which was found to be 85 percent effective in preventing severe disease and 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalization at 28 days. And on February 27 the FDA authorized the vaccine, marking the third available vaccine for COVID-19 in the United States.
[February 16, 2021]
Neurologists Offer Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccines
In a recent Neurology Today article, neurologists, who also have expertise in understanding viruses and the immune system, answer common questions about COVID-19 vaccines, such as:
- Should you be vaccinated if you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19? When?
- For Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations, what if you can’t get the second dose at the recommended time? Should you get it later?
- Can you still transmit the virus to others after vaccination?
Read the full article for answers to these questions and other guidance around vaccinations in people with neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s.
[February 9, 2021]
MJFF Receives Responses from Government Organizations on Ongoing COVID-19 Research
In December 2020, MJFF’s public policy team spearheaded a letter calling on the federal government to gather and analyze data on the potential connection between COVID-19, neurological conditions and long-term effects.
Recently, the Foundation received responses from the CDC and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), which include updates on several areas of ongoing research to learn more about COVID-19 and neurological disease. The Foundation has been doing all it can to support research on the intersection of COVID-19 and Parkinson's, so the responses received are encouraging.
For example, Anne Schuchat, MD, CDC principal deputy director, said, “CDC is analyzing electronic health information to rapidly describe the neurological conditions that occur in patients diagnosed with COVID-19 illness.” And Walter J. Koroshetz, MD, director at NINDS, said, “Testing interventions to prevent long-term effects of COVID-19 in clinical trials is a priority.”
[February 8, 2021]
Parkinson’s Experts Provide Key Messages about COVID-19 Vaccination
A new commentary in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, authored by Bastiaan Bloem, MD, Scientific Advisor to The Michael J. Fox Foundation, and colleagues, provides detail and context around COVID-19 vaccination in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD).
The article’s “take home messages” include:
- Compared to the general population, the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection causing serious, life-threatening disease seems higher for people living with PD, at least among those with more advanced disease.
- The approved mRNA-based vaccines and viral vector vaccines under development are not known or expected to interact with the neurodegenerative process in PD.
- The types or incidence of side effects of these vaccines in persons with PD seem no different than in the general population.
- The vaccines also seem safe for older adults, but caution is needed for the specific subgroup of very frail and terminally ill elderly persons with PD living in long-term care facilities. (“Very frail” means people for whom an otherwise minor vaccination side effect may have significant consequences. They often have multiple medical conditions or are dependent on others for all daily activities.)
- COVID-19 vaccination is not known to interfere with the current therapies of PD.
- Taken together, we recommend COVID-19 vaccination with approved vaccines for persons with PD, unless there is a specific contraindication.
- Vaccinated persons with PD must continue to comply with the public health guidelines to reduce exposure and transmission of COVID-19.
- Insights may change, and we must consciously monitor newly emerging data from both trials and real-life vaccination programs.
The authors conclude, “Because the benefits and risks of COVID-19 vaccines do not appear to be different than in the general population, we recommend COVID-19 vaccination with approved vaccines to persons with PD, unless there is a specific contraindication.”
[February 5, 2021]
Another Company Applies for Emergency Use Authorization of COVID-19 Vaccine
Yesterday, Johnson & Johnson applied for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. This vaccine is one dose rather than two and was found to be 85 percent effective in preventing severe disease and 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalization at 28 days. An FDA committee is scheduled to meet on February 26 to discuss authorization of the vaccine.
[February 1, 2021]
Department of Veterans Affairs Offers COVID-19 Vaccines
Now that COVID-19 vaccines are available, many people are wondering where and when they can get vaccinated. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is working closely with the CDC to make vaccines available for veterans and certain family caregivers. To learn more, contact your local VA or visit this page.
For other vaccination locations and the most-up-to-date information on who is eligible, check with your local health department, personal physician, or area clinics or hospitals.
[January 7, 2021]
Movement Disorder Society Encourages COVID-19 Vaccination for People with Parkinson’s
A recent statement prepared by the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (a professional organization of movement disorder clinicians, scientists and other health care professionals) offers information regarding COVID-19 vaccines for people with Parkinson’s. The report concludes, “we have encouraged our community of health specialists to recommend COVID-19 vaccination to their patients with PD unless there is a specific reason that precludes administration. We also recommend that patients come forward to seek the vaccine as quickly as it is available.” Supporting data includes:
- The authorized mRNA-based vaccines and the vector vaccines under development induce immunization through mechanisms that do not interact with the neurodegenerative process in PD.
- The reported Phase III data of the authorized vaccines showed that the types or incidence of side effects in patients with PD have not been different than in the general population.
- Similar to other immunizations, COVID-19 vaccination does not interfere with PD therapies.
- As some people with PD may be part of the first groups in the current vaccination programs because of their age, residency in nursing homes, or other reasons related to PD disabilities, more data will be available in the near future for further analysis of the impact of these vaccines on PD.
[January 6, 2021]
Vaccine Distribution Begins; Third Vaccine Authorized in United Kingdom
According to the CDC, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. have received a COVID-19 vaccine. While the vaccination rate is slower than expected, officials are working to accelerate the pace. The CDC has issued recommendations for phased vaccinations, but the rollout plan varies by state. Contact your local health department for the latest in your area and continue to follow CDC guidelines to protect yourself and slow the spread.
On December 30, the United Kingdom authorized the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use. This vaccine is easier to store, which means it may be easier to distribute this product more widely. The authorized Pfizer and Moderna vaccines must be kept in very cold temperatures (minus 70 and minus 20 degrees Celsius, respectively). The AstraZeneca vaccine can be kept at normal refrigerated temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.
[December 18, 2020]
FDA Authorizes Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine
Today, the FDA authorized Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, marking the second available vaccine for the virus in the United States. Distribution is expected to start within the next few days. Read more here.
[December 14, 2020]
FDA Authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine; First Patient in the US Dosed
On Friday evening, December 11, the FDA authorized the emergency use of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. The authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine catalyzed the shipping of 3 million doses to health care workers and nursing home residents across the country. By Monday morning, December 14, a nurse in New York was inoculated with the first vaccine.
Read more on the authorization from the FDA here.
[December 10, 2020]
FDA Panel Recommends COVID-19 Vaccine Authorization
Today, an FDA committee of medical and scientific advisors recommended the emergency use authorization of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine. (Read more about this vaccine.) The FDA now will make a formal decision on authorization, likely within the next few days.
[December 9, 2020]
Take Action: Ask Your Governor to Prioritize COVID-19 Vaccinations for People with Parkinson’s
On December 1, The Michael J. Fox Foundation submitted comments to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) urging them to give higher priority to people with PD for the COVID-19 vaccine due to underlying health conditions, comorbidities, and progress of the disease. ACIP recommendations to date are to prioritize health care workers and long-term care residents. The ACIP recommendations are now mandatory, and each state will be deciding its own prioritization of how the vaccine is rolled out. (Click here to read a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation on how states are prioritizing who will get the vaccine first.) We urge you to take action and contact your state governor to advocate for people living with Parkinson’s to be prioritized.
Send an email to your governor here.
[November 30, 2020]
What Does the Positive Vaccine News Mean for People with Parkinson’s?
The Foundation’s movement disorder specialist, Rachel Dolhun, MD, puts news of two effective COVID-19 vaccines in context for people with Parkinson’s and their families.
The bottom line? Dr. Dolhun says, “This is encouraging news, especially as pandemic fatigue grows and cases continue to climb. If you have questions about a vaccine’s potential benefits or risks specific to you and your situation, speak with your doctor. And until a vaccine is widely available, remember to maintain precautions such as frequent handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing to protect yourself and others.”
Read the entire blog here.