Blog post written by Nat Hawes, author of the Nature Cures series of books.
Nat Hawes shares important information for anyone having the COVID-19 vaccine who has had a corneal graft. There is a risk of graft rejection if ameliorating action is not taken. This means you can have the vaccine but must take special care of your eyes at the same time.
Corneal grafts are also referred to as corneal transplants or keratoplasty. They are used to correct problems caused by medical conditions or injury e.g. from infection.
Nat tells us:
‘Anybody who has had a corneal graft should be aware of the possible risk of rejection of the transplanted cornea following vaccination because vaccinations enhance the immune system. They should contact their eye consultant to be prescribed steroid eye drops to administer four times a day, or they may be advised to increase steroid drops if they are already using them. They will also need to have their eyes checked two weeks after they have had the vaccine. This is appropriate for both the influenza and the COVID-19 vaccines.
‘Although, as yet, there have been no confirmed cases of rejection due to the COVID-19 vaccine, there has been some documented from flu vaccinations. It is still early days though and most people have only had the one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination so far in the UK. Rejection can take place up to 2 months after the influenza vaccination and is potentially reversible.
‘Corneal rejection is caused by CD8 and CD4 T cells (defensive white blood cells) fighting to eradicate the foreign body (transplanted cornea) from the body and it is these very same T cells which are boosted by the COVID-19 vaccines so it is a distinct possibility that corneal rejection might occur.
‘This may be much more of a risk after the second dose of the vaccine so it is important that corneal graft patients are made aware of this so that they can take the appropriate steroid drops to counteract it, and have their eyes checked. They should still go ahead with having the vaccine, but cautiously.’
- Wertheim MS, Keel M, et al. Corneal transplant rejection following influenza vaccination. Br J Ophthalmol 2006; 90(7): 925-926. doi:
- Pluddemann A, Aronson JK. What is the role of T cells in COVID-19 infection? Why immunity is about more than antibodies. The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine. 19 October 2020.