The COVID-19 and Immunocompromised Connection

People Who Are Immunocompromised Are At Higher-Risk for Severe COVID-19

People who are moderately and severely immunocompromised are more likely to become severely ill with COVID-19. They may not be protected even if they are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and may need to take additional precautions to stay safe.

What does it mean to be immunocompromised? The immune system defenses are lowered and may not be able to fight off infections and diseases. This can be due to a medical condition or treatment for a medical condition.

Immunocompromising health conditions:

  • Autoimmune diseases include lupus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease
  • Certain cancers, especially cancers of the blood
  • HIV infection
  • Primary Immunodeficiency including DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, Bruton’s agammaglobulinemia
  • Certain developmental disabilities can put you at increased risk of developing immunocompromising conditions.

Immunosuppressants are medications that serve a variety of roles involving the immune system and may reduce or suppress your immune system response. They differ depending on what they are being prescribed for.

Different categories of immunosuppressants include:

  • Biologics such as certain treatments for eosinophilic asthma.
  • Calcineurin inhibitors used to manage autoimmune conditions including interstitial lung disease (ILD).
  • Corticosteroids such as prednisone, used in some anti-inflammatory medications. 
  • Monoclonal antibodies used as part of cancer treatment.
  • Inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMDH) inhibitors and rapamycin inhibitors are used to help prevent organ transplant rejection.
  • Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are used as treatments for certain autoimmune diseases.

Health conditions that may be treated with immunosuppressants include:

  • Some people with asthma, COPD, sarcoidosis or pulmonary fibrosis.
  • People going through cancer treatment.
  • People who get organ transplants to help prevent organ rejection.
  • People with autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease.
  • People who get stem cell transplants, this can include people who have blood cancers, blood disorders and bone marrow disorders.

Precautions people who are immunocompromised can take to help protect themselves from COVID-19

1. Stay up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccines. The immune response from vaccination in moderately to severely immunocompromised people may be lower than people who are not immunocompromised. There are different vaccinations recommendations for this group.

You can read more about the dosing schedule for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised on the CDC website.

2. FDA has authorized a preventive monoclonal antibody for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, ages 12 years and older, and weighing at least 88 pounds. In addition to vaccination, Pemivibart, may provide another layer of protection against COVID-19 and can be given at least 2 weeks after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. This is given as a single IV infusion at a healthcare facility.

Talk to a healthcare provider to learn if this medication to help prevent COVID-19 is right for you.

3. Consider wearing a well-fitting, high quality mask.

Mask Types

Cloth

  • Multiple layers of breathable fabric
  • Wash daily
  • Some protection

Surgical

  • Multiple layers of non-woven fabric
  • One-time use
  • More protection

KN95

  • Filtration is different depending on standards
  • Limited reuse
  • More protection

N95

  • NIOSH approved
  • Limited reuse
  • Highest protection

4. Wash or sanitize your hands often and clean frequently touched surfaces.

5. Open windows and increase ventilation throughout indoor spaces. Improving ventilation can help reduce virus particles in the home. CDC has an interactive ventilation tool to learn how you can decrease COVID-19 virus particles during and after guest visits.

6. Avoid crowded indoor spaces

7. Have a COVID-19 test on hand to get tested quickly when you need them. 

Antiviral Treatments

If you have COVID-19, antiviral treatments are recommended for people who are immunocompromised

Speak with a healthcare provider to learn more about treatment. 

Visit our preventing COVID-19 page for more tips.

Learn More

Steps friends, family and community members can take to help protect immunocompromised people from COVID-19:

1. Stay up to date on recommended COVID-19 vaccines.

2. Get tested if you have symptoms or before contact. Antigen tests can be used for screening however, false negatives are possible; false positives are not common. 

3. Consider wearing a mask when indoors.

Page last updated: April 17, 2024

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