COVID-19 and Vaccination in the Setting of Neurologic Disease: An Emerging Issue in Neurology

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has left many unanswered questions for patients with neurologic disorders and the providers caring for them. Elderly and immunocompromised patients are at increased risk for severe symptoms due to COVID-19, and the virus may increase symptoms of underlying neurologic illness, particularly for those with substantial bulbar and respiratory weakness or other neurologic disability. Emerging SARS-CoV-2 vaccines offer substantial protection from symptomatic infection, but both patients and providers may have concerns regarding theoretical risks of vaccination, including vaccine safety and efficacy in the context of immunotherapy and the potential for precipitating or exacerbating neurologic symptoms. In this statement on behalf of the Quality Committee of the American Academy of Neurology, we review the current literature, focusing on COVID-19 infection in adults with neurologic disease, in order to elucidate risks and benefits of vaccination in these individuals. Based on existing evidence, neurologists should recommend COVID-19 vaccination to their patients. For those patients being treated with immunotherapies, attention should be paid to timing of vaccination with respect to treatment and the potential for an attenuated immune response.

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