Produced by clinicians from Monash Health, Royal Melbourne Hospital and Western Health.
COVID 19 is a highly contagious virus that has high hospitalisation rates as well as mortality, particularly for those with underlying medical conditions which make them more vulnerable. Both sickle cell and thalassaemia have been designated as vulnerable conditions in the context of risk for hospitalisation and death from COVID. Vaccines are the best available defence against severe COVID 19 disease and death.
The Thalassaemia International Federation has categorized “highest risk” and “high risk” thalassaemia with any two of the following:
- Over the age of 50 years
- Transfusion dependent
- Non- transfused with haemoglobin less than 70g/L for more than two years
- Receiving iron chelation therapy
- Splenectomised persons or persons with asplenia
- Other medical conditions – diabetes, heart disease, lung disease
Therefore, all international advocacy groups for haemoglobinopathies including Thalassaemia International Federation (TIF), the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and Cooleys Anaemia Foundation strongly recommended that all haemoglobinopathy patients be vaccinated against COVID-19.
There are currently 2 types of vaccines available in Australia; MRNA vaccines (Pfizer BioNTech COVID 19) and viral vector vaccines which have been modified so they cannot grow in humans (AstraZeneca). Both vaccines are extremely effective at reducing hospitalisation and severe disease and death. This has been demonstrated in large clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants. Additionally, both vaccines are extremely safe and have been given to millions of people globally with overwhelmingly very limited severe side effects.
Currently, anyone aged over 12 years is eligible for COVID-19 immunization.
Is COVID-19 immunization recommended for people with thalassaemia?
COVID-19 vaccines are NOT contraindicated and strongly encouraged for adults and youth, including those who have had COVID-19 infection. Parents, carers and family members of those with thalassaemia and sickle cell also need to be vaccinated to avoid passing it on to affected family members.
As you are aware, Victoria is currently experiencing large numbers of COVID 19 cases. Indeed, hospitalisation rate, ICU admissions and numbers of patients requiring ventilator support are increasing. It is therefore imperative that you as well as your family and friends get vaccinated as soon as possible.
It is the most important health measure you can take to protect yourself, your family and your community from severe illness and death from COVID-19.