Dr. Daniel Cameron: Inside Lyme Podcast
Are you reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine?
Hello, and welcome to another Inside Lyme Podcast. I am your host Dr. Daniel Cameron. In this episode, I will be addressing concerns from Lyme disease patients regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.
I have Lyme disease patients in my practice who are concerned about contracting COVID-19 and some who are reluctant to take the vaccine. This reluctance has been referred to as “vaccine hesitancy.” In the journal Quantitative Research, Quinn and colleagues wrote, “once a vaccine [for COVID-19] is available, many Americans may be hesitant about accepting it, particularly those in minority communities.” 
Lyme disease vaccine
In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a vaccine to prevent Lyme disease. The vaccine, LYMErix™, was quite effective at preventing a Lyme disease rash (or Bull’s eye rash). But the vaccine was not nearly as effective at preventing other manifestations of Lyme disease, according to the LYMErix™ package insert.
After receiving the vaccine, some Lyme disease patients developed autoimmune problems. And as a result, the manufacturer SmithKline Beecham pulled it off the market in 2002 due to poor sales. The manufacturer was unable to determine if the autoimmune issues reported by patients was, in fact, due to the vaccine.
While several companies are currently working on developing another Lyme disease vaccine, none seem to be researching a vaccine for other tick-borne illnesses. 
There is, in particular, a low trust for the COVID-19 vaccine among Black Americans, wrote P.R. Lockhart in an NBC News article. “Many of them fear that the vaccines aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19 will be harmful to Black Americans.” 
Furthermore, he adds, the medical system has mistreated Black Americans in the past, as well in the present. Lockhart cites the Tuskegee syphilis trial as an example.
“The reality is that their worries have been earned and will not be corrected until medicine and public health and the government reckon with the past and what has been done to Black and brown people,” Lockhart wrote.
Some vaccines, however, have been more readily embraced by the public. According to the authors, “Vaccines for cancer, Type II diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease were the most accepted by respondents.” 
Yet, vaccination hesitancy remains for a variety of other vaccines. “A recent national survey found that if a successful COVID-19 vaccine is produced and widely available, only 49% of Americans intend to get it; for Black adults, only 40% indicated they would take the vaccine while 32% indicated they were unsure,” wrote Quinn and colleagues.
Some of my Lyme disease patients have expressed concern that the COVID-19 vaccine may worsen their symptoms of Lyme disease.
I have seen vaccine hesitancy in my Lyme disease patients. They are concerned that the vaccine will be harmful and feel their concerns have been dismissed.
Risks vs. benefits of COVID-19 vaccine
The risks of developing persistent symptoms and serious complications from COVID-19 were discussed in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
“As of January 3, 2021, a total of 20,346,372 cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and 349,246 associated deaths have been reported in the United States. Long-term sequelae of COVID-19 over the course of a lifetime currently are unknown; however, persistent symptoms and serious complications are being reported among COVID-19 survivors, including persons who initially experience a mild acute illness.” 
The risk of COVID-19 to Lyme disease patients is not so clear.
The risks of a COVID-19 vaccination were also described in the same Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
“During December 14–23, 2020, monitoring by the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System detected 21 cases of anaphylaxis after administration of a reported 1,893,360 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (11.1 cases per million doses); 71% of these occurred within 15 minutes of vaccination.” 
The risks of the COVID-19 vaccination to Lyme disease patients is not so clear.
To take or not to take the COVID-19 vaccine
The severity of COVID-19 for some individuals is forcing my Lyme disease patients to make a decision. Are you reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The following questions are addressed in the podcast:
- Have you had any Lyme disease patients who have been sick with COVID-19?
- What were your Lyme disease patients concerns about COVID-19?
- What were your Lyme disease patients concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine?
- What is vaccine hesitancy?
- Have you seen any other vaccine hesitancy, e.g., Lyme disease vaccine?
- Did any of your Lyme disease patients take the Lyme disease vaccine?
- How effective was the Lyme disease vaccine?
- Why was the Lyme disease vaccine discontinued?
- Have you seen COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among your Lyme disease patients?
- What are your Lyme disease patients considering the COVID-19 concerns?
- Have any of your Lyme disease patients tolerated the COVID-19 vaccine?
- What are the risks of COVID-19?
- What are the risks of other complications of COVID-19 e.g., “long haulers”
- What are the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine?
- What are the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine?
- How is one to decide whether to take the vaccine?
Thanks for listening to another Inside Lyme Podcast. You can read more about these cases in my show notes and on my website @DanielCameronMD.com. As always, it is your likes, comments, reviews, and shares that help spread the word about Lyme disease. Until next time on Inside Lyme.
Please remember that the advice given is general and not intended as specific advice as to any particular patient. If you require specific advice, then please seek that advice from an experienced professional.
Inside Lyme Podcast Series
This Inside Lyme case series will be discussed on my Facebook and made available on podcast and YouTube. As always, it is your likes, comments, and shares that help spread the word about this series and our work. If you can, please leave a review on iTunes or wherever else you get your podcasts.
- Quinn SC, Lama Y, Jamison A, Freimuth V, Shah V. Willingness of Black and White Adults to Accept Vaccines in Development: An Exploratory Study Using National Survey Data. Am J Health Promot. Dec 28 2020:890117120979918. doi:10.1177/0890117120979918
- Researchers race to develop Lyme vaccine. Insider Lyme Blog by Dr. Daniel Cameron https://danielcameronmd.com/researchers-race-to-develop-lyme-disease-vaccine/ Last accessed 1/9/21.
- Experts warn of low Covid vaccine trust among Black Americans by P.R. Lockhart in NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/experts-warn-low-covid-vaccine-trust-among-black-americans-n1250743 Last accessed 12/12/20
- Allergic Reactions Including Anaphylaxis After Receipt of the First Dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine — United States, December 14–23, 2020. from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7002e1.htm?s_cid=mm7002e1_w Last accessed 1/9/21.
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