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What People With SMA Should Know About Getting a Second COVID-19 Booster Shot

Posted on August 03, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Robert Hurd, M.D.
Article written by
Manuel Penton, M.D.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved a second COVID-19 booster shot of the Moderna or Pfizer messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines for people over 50 years old and those who are immunocompromised.
  • Some individuals with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) are considered immunocompromised, but it’s important to ask your doctor whether a second booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is the right option for you.

The CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have authorized and recommended a second COVID-19 booster shot for people 50 and over and those with immunocompromising conditions.

Although not all individuals with SMA are considered immunocompromised, CureSMA suggests speaking with your doctor about your vaccination options and the best timing of the doses.

The New Recommendations

Some important details about these recommendations include the following:

  • This booster is for people who received their first booster shot at least four months ago.
  • This fourth shot would be of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, not the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • Even if you were previously vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it is now recommended that this next dose be a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine only.
  • For those who are immunocompromised and received a three-dose primary vaccination followed by an initial booster, this additional booster counts as a fifth shot.

If you already had your first booster shot, you may be wondering whether people with SMA are eligible for a second dose of the booster shot.

The CDC’s list of underlying medical conditions doesn’t explicitly list SMA as a condition that may qualify someone for a second booster shot. The list of underlying conditions includes, for example, chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart conditions, obesity, smoking or smoking history, and HIV infection. However, some people with SMA may be considered immunocompromised due to the medications they take or other conditions that they have.

Talk with your doctor if you have questions about your eligibility for an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Why Booster Shots Matter

Research indicates that antibody levels are likely to decrease over time, so getting booster doses at recommended intervals is necessary — even for vaccinated people who made antibodies after their initial shots.

Simply making antibodies does not always translate to complete immunity from COVID-19 infection. The findings from recent studies, however, are promising. In one study of immunocompromised people with cancer, researchers tested levels of antibodies (proteins the immune system makes to help destroy a target). In this case, the antibodies were to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), made in response to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

On average, antibodies against the coronavirus were identified after the second vaccine dose in about 90 percent of the study’s 515 participants. These results are considered a good sign that vaccines using mRNA — which include those by Moderna and Pfizer — for COVID-19 can trigger strong responses, even in people with compromised immune systems. It’s evidence that vaccines can protect people at a higher risk of severe infections.

One recent study reviewed the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine on 14 people with neuromuscular diseases, including one participant with SMA. The researchers found that study participants’ vaccine responses were strong and post-vaccine side effects were similar to individuals in the general population.

According to the CDC, getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself and slow the spread of the virus. If you are unvaccinated due to immunodeficiency, an autoimmune disease, cancer treatment, or because you are an organ transplant recipient, this new research should give you confidence to speak with your health care provider about when a COVID-19 vaccine would be right for you.

Find Your Team

On mySMAteam, the social support network for people with spinal muscular atrophy and their loved ones, members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand.

Are you considering getting a second booster shot? Have you discussed any concerns with your health care provider? Share your insights in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Robert Hurd, M.D. is a professor of endocrinology and health care ethics at Xavier University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Manuel Penton, M.D. is a medical editor at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about him here.

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