Arthritis flare ups from the vaccine adjuvant..

I noted that my initially mild (almost unnoticeable) arthritis symptoms in sept2020 quickly accelerated ~4 weeks after each vaccination (covid 1 astra, covid 2 pfizer & flu).

After first dose walking distance got reduced considerably from my usual 12Km per day to 8km, no hand involvement. Put it down to sport injury to recover from, and seemingly resolved.

After the second dose (+4wks) the stiff hand joints symptom first appeared. Walking further reduced to 4km before feet got too painful. Symptoms resolved after a couple of weeks. Referred to Rheumy.

After Sept Flu jab (+4wks) the RA went wild, first got my right index tendons, then all the joints, - elbows, hips etc. Rheumy confirmed high RA serology in Oct.

There isn’t much study of this in the UK, but I heard UCLH recommends (from my dentist) taking steroids before & after the vax to avoid adjuvant (immune stimulant) related flare ups.

In terms of studies there are a couple of limited papers (US) indicating the possibility.

Note it does not matter which vax, any that contains an immune stimulating/triggering additive (adjuvant). Normally this is a good thing, but in our RA case the last thing we need is boosting the immune system when we are trying to suppress it with drugs.

GP could not help, but honest enough to say “not aware of any new advisory to general practices” but specialist centres might know more at the coal face.

Any advice from the Team here?

My primary concern is that as my RA has moved faster & ramped up (but not down) after each vax, will the booster make it worse for me? Can it induce addl autoimmune problems?


  • Arthuritis
    Arthuritis Member Posts: 412

    Forgot to ask, if the existing vaxes can be evaded by Omicron, is it worth waiting for Pfizer’s internal study on the efficacy of the current vax against Omicron (results in 2-3 weeks), if its found not to be effective against Omicron I’d rather not have an adjuvant immune stimulant without any benefit, as it would give me little protection against covid while ramping up my RA.

  • Dear Arthuritis

    Thank you for your posting on the forum. I am sorry to hear that your RA symptoms have been worse following the Covid vaccines and that you found it more difficult to keep up your exercise routine. It is not possible for us to advice on whether you should have the booster. We would advice you to seek guidance about this issue from your rheumatology healthcare team including whether it is better to wait to see if the vaccine is effective against the Omicron variant.

    We do have some information about the vaccine and arthritis. Including that people with severely suppressed immune systems, either because of their condition or the medication they take, generally receive a much lower level of protection after just one dose of the vaccine, so it is very important for this group to get all recommended doses of the vaccine in order to be as protected as possible. More on this can be found on the link to our website below.


    The OCTAVE study is exploring the effectiveness of the vaccine after two doses in people with autoimmune conditions. You can read more about this on the link below


    Vaccines for Covid 19

    Octave Study


    You may also find the following general information from other organisations useful. We have no control over the contents of these resources and are unable to guarantee their suitability for you, but we hope they’re helpful:

    JCVI - Covid 19 booster vaccine programme


    I hope that this information is helpful. If at any point you would like to talk things through informally and in confidence about your arthritis, you are welcome to call our Free Helpline on 0800 520 0520 weekdays 9am – 6pm.

    Best Wishes


    Helpline Advisor

  • Arthuritis
    Arthuritis Member Posts: 412

    @helpline_team Dawn et team…

    I think maybe I did not express myself well enough. I am VERY pro vaccine, but you need to understand how they work. It does not matter whether its covid or flu or whatever, its how they STIMULATE the immune system to be effective. RA sufferers’ immune system are already suffering from the consequences of an overactive immune sys. Stimulating it causes flare ups, but for those with early RA, could get accelerated.

    Vaccines contain a tiny (the non live virus ones) a tiny portion of the viral protein (antigen) or mrna. This by itself is so small that your immune sys would barely notice it. The solution is to either give you more antigen, (in short supply) or add something to make the tiny amount seem a bigger threat than it really is, an immune stimulant (adjuvant). The standard is the adjuvant, which is normally extremely safe. Unless your immune sys is already in high gear chewing up your connective tissue, then the adjuvant will accelerate the inflammation.

    My rheumy said he’d never seen anything like it, in the space of a few days i have got the level of damage that takes months or years, and flare ups following vaccination are a known thing which some specialist centres are now developing a new protocol to manage it, notably University College London Hospitals’ rheumatology team, but i don’t know if they have shared this with other trusts.


  • Hi @Arthuritis

    Thank you for your post on the forum

    I’m really sorry to hear about your experience, though pleased that your rheumatology team are on it. I wonder if they’ve reported it to the yellow card scheme if not then this is something that may be helpful to do.

    Best wishes


    Helpline Advisor

  • Arthuritis
    Arthuritis Member Posts: 412

    Hi Lynda,

    Yes, its on MHRA Yellow Card.