COVID-19 Vaccination & Epilepsy

Most people with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms, but some people become severely ill. While anyone can develop severe illness due to COVID-19, the elderly and those with certain underlying medical conditions are at greatest risk.

People with epilepsy should speak with their health care team or medical provider about their specific risks for COVID-19 and severe illness as well as steps they can take to reduce their risks.

Frequently Asked Questions

    What important safety information should I know about the COVID-19 vaccine?

    The COVID vaccines are going through the same rigorous safety assessments as have other vaccines, and corners are not being cut. The purpose of a vaccine is to expose your immune system to the virus in a safe way. If you are exposed to it in the future, your immune system will recognize, attack, and destroy the virus before you become ill from it. The COVID vaccine uses a new technology where messenger RNA is introduced into the body, as opposed to a piece of the virus. Messenger RNA contains the instructions for your body to make a protein related to the virus, but not the actual virus. Your immune system will then make antibodies to that protein. If you are then exposed to COVID infection, your body will rapidly recognize the protein, and will be primed to fight off infection early, preventing you from developing severe illness.

    This vaccine has been developed more quickly than previous vaccines, leading some people to worry that this was rushed. Advances in genetics allowed scientists to determine the genetic code of the COVID-19 virus early, which was critical to making the messenger RNA for the vaccine. More than 555 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been given in the United States from December 14, 2020, through March 7, 2022. The safety has been very carefully monitored. Rare side effects occur, but overall, the vaccines have been shown to be both SAFE and EFFECTIVE.

    All COVID vaccines continue to be evaluated by intensive safety monitoring. In most cases, the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are preferred over the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. This is because the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been associated with rare blood clots and is less effective in preventing COVID.

    I am otherwise healthy, should I get the vaccine?

    Persons who are otherwise healthy can still develop severe disease due to COVID, so it is strongly recommended that they are vaccinated. Vaccination will also decrease the chance you will spread COVID to those around you, who may be more vulnerable to severe disease.

    I have already had COVID-19 and recovered. Do I still need to get the vaccine?

    People who have had COVID can be re-infected. We do not yet know how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again. Some data suggests that natural immunity after COVID-19 may not last very long. In addition, infection with a previous COVID variant may not protect you from a new variant. The CDC recommends that persons who previously had COVID should still get the vaccination. If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

    Can pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers get the vaccine?

    The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination for all women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. More information can be found on the CDC’s pregnancy and breastfeeding COVID-19 page.

    Should children with epilepsy get the vaccine?

    As with adults with epilepsy, currently there is no evidence that children with seizures alone (no other compromising risk factors) are at higher risk for vaccination adverse events than anyone else in this age group. Therefore, we encourage children with epilepsy who are otherwise eligible to also get the COVID-19 vaccination.

    I mask, practice social distancing and self-quarantine when necessary - should I still get a COVID-19 vaccine?

    Given the extent of COVID-19 spread in the U.S., it is critically important to develop large-scale immunity through vaccination to stop the pandemic. COVID often spreads in the community from people who do not have symptoms. People can be contagious for as long as 14 days without symptoms, and those with symptoms can infect others two days before their symptoms begin.

    Do I need to continue to mask and social distance even after I get the vaccine?

    Persons who have been vaccinated must continue to follow the updated CDC guidance for masking and social distancing.

    The guidance regarding masking is continuously evolving as cases of COVID surge and then fall.

    Can I get a vaccine medical exemption if I have epilepsy?

    The American Epilepsy Society does not recommend medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination in patients with epilepsy in the absence of complicating medical factors.

    Who is paying for the COVID vaccine?

    Vaccination doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no charge. However, vaccine providers will be able to charge an administration fee to give the shot to someone and would be able to have this fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company. For uninsured patients, this fee can be covered by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

    What is emergency use authorization?

    Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is a way to facilitate the availability of an unapproved medical product, such as vaccines, during a public health emergency. Since COVID-19 is a public health emergency, all of the COVID-19 vaccines initially received an EUA, however as noted above, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now fully approved for specific age groups.

    For more information, please visit the CDC website on vaccination. The CDC provides resources and information, from tracking reporting to side effects. They also provide information for those in specific populations like older adults and those with disabilities.

    Authored By:

    Elaine Wirrell MD

    on Friday, December 11, 2020

    Reviewed By:

    Elaine Wirrell MD
    Epilepsy Foundation Advocacy
    Jacqueline French MD

    on Friday, July 01, 2022

    Resources

    Epilepsy Centers

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    Epilepsy Medication

    Find in-depth information on anti-seizure medications so you know what to ask your doctor.

    Epilepsy and Seizures 24/7 Helpline

    Call our Epilepsy and Seizures 24/7 Helpline and talk with an epilepsy information specialist or submit a question online.

    Tools & Forms

    Download our seizure tracking app, print out seizure action plans, or explore other educational materials.

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