Because nearly every conversation these days seems to revolve around the topic of COVID-19, I thought I would continue the trend and try to answer some questions that I have frequently heard regarding COVID as it relates to a common endocrine condition. As both a thyroid patient and a thyroid doctor, I was interested in the topic of autoimmune thyroid disease, as well as how the novel coronavirus might affect thyroid gland function. A brief review of recent data published on COVID-19 may help answer some common questions that many people have had.
- Does having autoimmune thyroid disease predispose a person to COVID19 infection or to worse outcomes if infected? Is a person with autoimmune thyroid disease (Graves’ disease, Hashimoto's thyroiditis) considered “immunocompromised?” Autoimmune thyroid disease is not considered to be an immunocompromised state. These patients are considered to be in the CDC high-risk category for severe C-19 outcomes. A retrospective study of 3700 patients in NY looked at patients with preexisting thyroid disease or taking thyroid medication prior to C-19 infection. There was no difference if rates of hospitalization, ventilation, or mortality compared to patients without thyroid disease, and likely no difference in the risk of contracting C-19 infection.
- Does COVID-19 have an effect on the thyroid gland and on thyroid function? Yes, in a minority of patients. Approximately 15-30% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were noted to have new-onset thyroid dysfunction: hypothyroidism due to non-thyroidal illness or thyrotoxicosis due to subacute thyroiditis. Most cases were self-limited with thyroid function returning to normal following the resolution of the infection.
- Should people with autoimmune thyroid disease get the COVID-19 vaccine? Yes. People with autoimmune thyroid disease are not considered immunosuppressed and were included in the vaccine trials. The available COVID vaccines are not live virus vaccines and there is no contraindication for thyroid patients to receive them. Patients on immunosuppressive medications should speak with their healthcare providers regarding the vaccine.