Coronavirus vaccines: key facts for people with Parkinson’s disease

Special reports

Author: Saskia MairPublished: 11 February 2021

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An older woman receives a vaccine

What do Covid-19 vaccines mean for people with Parkinson’s disease? In a new article, experts call for healthcare specialists to recommend vaccination to those with the condition

The coronavirus pandemic is a huge concern for the global Parkinson’s community. Research suggests that while people living with the condition are not more likely to contract Covid-19, they do face an increased likelihood of experiencing a serious form of the disease. The virus can worsen both the motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. Lockdowns and ‘stay at home’ messaging have also impacted mental health – particularly as people with Parkinson’s can be more vulnerable to the negative effects of stress.

However, recently approved coronavirus vaccines could be “a light at the end of the tunnel” for people with Parkinson’s disease, a new article suggests.

The commentary, published in the ‘Journal of Parkinson’s disease’, encourages movement disorder specialists to recommend Covid-19 vaccines to people with the condition, unless there are other specific reasons that it could be harmful to them.

“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 Parkinson’s disease, unless there is a specific contraindication,” the authors wrote. “Some caution seems warranted in very frail and terminally ill elderly persons with Parkinson’s disease living in long-term care facilities.”

Common questions answered

According to the report, while the approval of the vaccines has been a “source of hope”, some in Parkinson’s community are concerned about how quickly the vaccines have been developed.

“Many physicians have already received phone calls from worried persons with Parkinson’s disease or their families, asking about the safety of Covid-19 vaccination in the specific context of Parkinson’s disease and the dopaminergic medications,” the authors wrote.

“We are in a unique situation where concerted global efforts are being made to rapidly combat a catastrophic pandemic, at an unprecedented pace. We fully understand that this speed of development may give rise to concerns about the vaccine’s efficacy and safety, both among persons with Parkinson’s disease and among physicians looking after these individuals.”

The researchers explained that while there is not yet any data focusing on the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines specifically for people with Parkinson’s, they are not expected to affect the neurodegenerative processes associated with the condition and are not known to interfere with Parkinson’s therapies. “Vaccines with proven efficacy and what appears to be a satisfactory safety profile are now hopefully going to significantly contribute to ending the Covid-19 pandemic that has already taken many lives,” they added.

The authors advised any readers to use the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society website to stay updated about recommendations, as new information from both trials and clinical practices emerges.

Read more:

Coronavirus and treatment for Parkinson’s

“Life isn’t easy”: how coronavirus is affecting women with Parkinson’s

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