Patients with inflammatory bowel disease must take COVID-19 vaccine: experts

‘But efficacy may be slightly lower’

Doctors at an interactive discussion with those diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) on Saturday suggested that it was important for all IBD patients to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

The online discussion, organised by Tamil Nadu Gastroenterologist Trust and hosted by K.R. Palaniswamy, head, department of gastroenterology, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, focused particularly on addressing the concerns of IBD patients over COVID-19.

‘Risk not high’

P. Piramanayagam, gastroenterologist at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, said that according to data available from the U.S. and Europe, the risk of IBD patients contracting COVID-19 was not high, compared with the general population. However, he said that once infected, the possibility of COVID-19 becoming severe was relatively high among IBD patients.

Citing the findings of renowned global organisations in the field of gastroenterology, he said IBD patients could get vaccinated at the earliest, although the available data indicated that the efficacy of the vaccines might be slightly lower for IBD patients, owing to medication they took.

Ashok Chacko, head, gastroenterology and liver diseases, Naruvi Hospitals, Vellore, spoke on the increasing incidence of mucormycosis.

Apart from the use of steroids in the treatment of COVID-19 and uncontrolled sugar levels being major risk factors for mucormycosis, unhygienic way of delivering oxygen and use of unsterilised water in humidifiers and unclean catheters and masks could be the other key reasons for the increased prevalence.

Sharing her experience of living with Crohn’s disease, a type of IBD, for the past 25 years, Tanya Prashant highlighted the need for proper diet and medication. “When I was 16, I was diagnosed with the disease. It was not easy for me to accept then that I had to lead a life of many restrictions. I went into denial and experimented with stopping medications for a while. However, acceptance and adapting helped,” she said.

Highlighting that IBD was often viewed as a socially awkward disease that was difficult to explain and incorrectly understood, she said that support from doctors, from families and more importantly the resolve of the patients were crucial in managing it.

The discussion was organised to mark the World IBD Day that fell on May 19. Dr. Palaniswamy said that efforts will be made to organise such interactions with patients more often.

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