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BIAA Issues Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccines for Persons with Brain Injury

January 25, 2021

person wearing blue gloves administering vaccine into right arm of another person

Fairfax, Va. – As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the medical leadership of the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) wrote an open letter encouraging all individuals with brain injury to get vaccinated in order to avoid additional neuroinflammatory issues and keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe.

According to the American Academy of Neurology, anyone with a neurologic disorder such as brain injury is particularly vulnerable to diseases like influenza and COVID-19. In the medical community, brain injury is widely recognized as a chronic disease, meaning that it may further increase the risk of negative complications from COVID-19. Brain injury treatment programs are therefore trying to get their patients and staff vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“When one is infected with COVID-19, the virus attacks the ‘weakest link’ it finds in the body, which is why individuals with longstanding chronic medical issues are at greatest risk for infection, complications, and even death,” explained BIAA National Medical Director Brent E. Masel, M.D. “Studies have shown that traumatic brain injury triggers an inflammatory process in the brain that causes an individual to experience chronic issues. This process places those individuals at far greater risk of developing complications from COVID-19, which itself is well known to cause chronic neuroinflammatory issues.”

BIAA has received multiple inquiries as to the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. While it may cause transient symptoms, these are related to the general protective immune response that is desired to be triggered, such as arm soreness, headache, and fever. These symptoms generally resolve rapidly, often in as little as a day. “There is no evidence that receiving the vaccine will make TBI symptoms worse; however, a COVID-19 infection can do just that,” said Gregory J. O’Shanick, M.D., national medical director emeritus of BIAA. “Our clinical experience has seen severe neurobehavioral disturbance, delirium, psychosis, and, sadly, deaths.”

“Individuals who have sustained brain injury have led a lifelong courageous struggle to recover their health and independence,” said Dr. Masel. “Don’t quit now based on rumors from poorly informed or unknowledgeable sources. Get vaccinated. Get safe.”

The Association will address additional questions about the COVID-19 vaccine in an upcoming webinar. Individuals in need of information, resources, and support may speak with a brain injury specialist by contacting BIAA’s National Brain Injury Information Center (NBIIC) at 1-800-444-6443.

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About the Brain Injury Association of America:

The Brain Injury Association of America is the country’s oldest and largest nationwide brain injury advocacy organization. Our mission is to advance awareness, research, treatment, and education and to improve the quality of life for all people affected by brain injury. We are dedicated to increasing access to quality health care and raising awareness and understanding of brain injury.

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