Eczema and the COVID-19 Vaccine: Is it Safe?

COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people who have eczema, an itchy rash that is the most common type of atopic dermatitis. The COVID-19 vaccine can prevent you from getting COVID-19 and lowers the risk of developing a severe case that could lead to hospitalization, long-term illness, or even death.

The COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States have been rigorously tested and proven safe and effective. Here's what to know about getting the COVID-19 vaccine if you have eczema.

Child receiving COVID vaccine

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Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe and Effective for People With Eczema?

Studies show that there are few, if any, additional side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine for people with eczema. Whether you have eczema that you treat with a topical substance or a systemic medication that you take as a pill or injection, it is safe to have a COVID-19 vaccine.

There have been a few instances of eczema flaring up in people after they were vaccinated, but the benefits far outweigh the risks, and the flares were easily treated. Even if you are having an eczema flare, there is no data to suggest you should not have a COVID-19 vaccine.

Which Type of COVID-19 Vaccine Should People With Eczema Get?

There are three types of COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States, all of which are safe for people with eczema:

  • Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines: Pfizer and Moderna
  • Protein subunit vaccines: Novavax
  • Viral vector vaccines: Johnson and Johnson (J&J)

The J&J vaccine is recommended only in limited circumstances due to a rare clotting side effect unrelated to eczema.

Boosters, as well as the initial doses, are safe and effective, even if you have eczema. People who take medication for eczema that affects the immune system should avoid "live" vaccines, but none of the COVID-19 vaccines are live vaccines. They have no COVID-19 virus in them.

In one study, a handful of people who took Dupixent (dupilumab) by injection had an eczema flare after being vaccinated for COVID-19, but it was easily treated with a topical medication. There has been no significant difference in the reaction due to the type of vaccine, or between the first and second doses.

Are There Side Effects of the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Some people who get the COVID-19 vaccine may have side effects but they are no worse in people with eczema. They tend to occur within seven days of getting the vaccine and are usually mild. Common side effects include:

  • Soreness at the injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache

These side effects are more common after a second dose of the Pfizer, Moderna, or Novavax vaccine. Severe reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine are rare but include myocarditis, a serious inflammation in the heart muscle wall, and pericarditis, an inflammation of a membrane around the heart which usually goes away without treatment.

The J&J vaccine has a very rare incidence of blood clots, in about 4 of each 1 million people who receive the vaccine. It is only recommended in people who are allergic to other vaccines or if other vaccines are unavailable.

There is no evidence to suggest that people with eczema are more likely to have a serious reaction to the vaccine than people without eczema. Eczema does not suppress your immune system, though your treatment may if you take systemic medications rather than use topical treatments on your skin.

If you take a medication that affects your immune system, it could, in theory, reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. Talk to your healthcare provider about timing of the COVID-19 vaccination and whether to hold your medication for a time around the vaccination.

Risks of COVID-19 for People With Eczema

COVID-19 killed an estimated 6.5 million people worldwide and over 1 million people in the United States alone by October 2022. Effective treatments for COVID-19 that have been tested for safety, including Veklury (remdesiver) and Paxlovid and Lagevrio (molnupiravir), are now available.

COVID-19 can still be serious and deadly, however, especially in high-risk people like those age 65 and older, those with weakened immune systems, or those with existing serious health conditions.

Though eczema does not make it more likely that you will have a serious case of COVID-19, you are at the same risk for severe COVID-19 if you have other risk factors. The vaccine effectively reduces the risk of having a serious case of COVID-19 and makes it less likely that you will contract it.

What Should People Avoid Before Having the COVID-19 Vaccine?

The precautions you may want to consider before getting the COVID-19 vaccine vary according to the type of vaccine. None of these precautions are connected to eczema, however. Before you get the vaccine:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about which COVID-19 vaccine to get if you had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose.
  • Avoid the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines if you are allergic to polyethylene glycol (PEG).
  • Avoid the Novavax and J&J vaccines if you are allergic to polysorbate.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider if you've had allergic reactions to previous vaccines or injectable medications.

If you take dupilumab for eczema, consider waiting two to three days after getting a COVID-19 vaccination before your next injection to avoid a potentially higher risk of mild side effects.

Where Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Come From?

The approved COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States follow all safety and efficacy protocols of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Here is how they are manufactured:

  • Messenger RNA vaccines are made from genetically engineered material that signals your body to make antibodies that target a protein on the COVID-19 virus surface. It does not affect your DNA or give you COVID-19. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA.
  • Subunit vaccines use part of the COVID-19 virus that stimulates your immune system to create antibodies and white blood cells that fight COVID-19. It does not affect your DNA and cannot give you COVID-19. The Novavax vaccine uses this method.
  • Viral vector vaccines are produced by inserting genetic material from the COVID-19 virus into a different virus that becomes the vector, and instructs the body to make antibodies and white blood cells that fight COVID-19. You cannot become infected with COVID-19, and the material does not affect your DNA. The J&J vaccine uses this approach.

After the vaccines stimulate the antibody reaction, your cells discard the vaccine ingredients, which is a normal bodily process.

Most of the ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines are fats, sugar, and salts like those in food. They do not contain:

  • Preservatives
  • Antibiotics
  • Medicines
  • Human or animal tissue or cells of any kind
  • Egg products, gluten, peanuts, or tree nuts
  • Metal
  • Latex
  • Human-made products like nanostructures, semiconductors, or microelectronics

Where Can You Get a COVID-19 Vaccine?

You can find a location where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine by going to Vaccines.gov. Enter your zip code in as instructed for a list of locations near you. If you do not use a computer or smartphone, you can call 800-232-0233.

When Should You Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

If you have never had a COVID-19 vaccine, you can start by getting the primary vaccination. You will need one or two doses, depending on your vaccine type. If you need two doses, you should wait no more than eight weeks between the first and second injections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you don't mix types of vaccines for your primary shots.

Over time, the vaccine's protection weakens, and booster shots will reinforce it. The booster shots introduced in September 2022 are bivalent, meaning they protect against the original form of the virus and some of the newer Omicron variants. Here's what to know about current recommendations:

The CDC recommends timing of booster shots based on several factors, including age:

  • Children 6 months through 5 years old should receive a vaccine.
  • Children 6 months through 4 years old should not receive a booster.
  • People 5 years old and older can get a booster if it has been at least two months since their last COVID-19 vaccine.

If you recently had COVID-19, consider delaying your vaccine dose, whether it's your first or a booster, for three months from when you had symptoms or a positive test. People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should talk to their healthcare provider about the COVID-19 vaccination.

Summary

There are no additional risks from the COVID-19 vaccines, either primary shots or boosters, for people with eczema. A handful of people had an eczema flare after having the vaccine, which was easily treated.

Even if you are on an injectable medication for eczema, you can still get the COVID-19 vaccine safely. The benefits of being protected from COVID-19 and protecting others by getting the vaccine far outweigh the risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19.

A Word From Verywell

There's been a lot of discussion and misinformation about vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine. There is no evidence that the vaccine is dangerous, affects your DNA, or allows you to be tracked.

Vaccines have saved countless millions of lives around the world. The COVID-19 vaccine was developed carefully, with technology speeding up the process so that it could ward off deaths and serious disease.

The risk of severe COVID-19 may be lower now, but there's little reason not to get a booster or, if you haven't been vaccinated, to get your primary dose. You'll be protecting yourself and others.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Pierre Fabre Eczema Foundation. COVID-19 vaccination in atopic patients.

  3. Potestio L, Napolitano M, et al. Atopic dermatitis exacerbation after COVID‐19 vaccination in dupilumab‐treated patients. Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2022;36(6):e409-e411. doi:10.1111/jdv.17964

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overview of COVID-19 vaccines.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Possible side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

  6. National Eczema Association. Ask the ecz-perts: Covid-19, vaccines, booster shots and flaring from the virus.

  7. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. COVID-19 dashboard.

  8. Food and Drug Administration. Know your treatment options for COVID-19.

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Understanding risk.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines Including boosters.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccines for young children.

By Nancy LeBrun
In addition to her extensive health and wellness writing, Nancy has written about many general interest topics for publications as diverse as Newsweek, Teen Vogue, abcnews.com, and Craftsmanship Quarterly. She has authored a book about documentary filmmaking, a screenplay about a lost civil rights hero, and ghostwritten several memoirs.