The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that neurological comorbidities, including epilepsy, may be a risk factor for COVID, despite the lack of evidence. Presently, a medical history of epilepsy has not been reported to be a risk factor for developing COVID.
In general, there is currently no evidence of increased risk of infection in people with epilepsy, compared with the general population. People who are seizure-free on medications, or who have occasional seizures and no other health issues, are not at increased risk. For some people, epilepsy is part of a syndrome, or epilepsy in association with other conditions. These people may have other health issues in addition to their epilepsy. If these health issues affect the immune system, their risk of infection can be raised. Risk is increased in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with certain long-term conditions such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease and chronic lung disease. People with uncontrolled seizures, particularly seizures triggered by fever or infection, may be more vulnerable to increased seizures at the time of infection but there is no evidence of this yet. The most important thing is to make sure that those with epilepsy continue to take their regular medications and avoid any other seizure triggers (e.g., alcohol, sleep deprivation). (Learn more)
Vaccines against COVID are currently being approved and becoming available.
There is currently no evidence to suggest that having epilepsy is specifically associated with a higher risk of side effects from a COVID vaccine. For people with epilepsy, the risk of COVID infection and potential complications far outweighs the risk of side effects from a COVID vaccine. As with other vaccines, a fever can develop after a COVID vaccination. This could lower the seizure threshold in some people. Antipyretics (e.g., paracetamol/acetaminophen) taken regularly for 48 hours after the vaccination (or for the duration of fever) will minimize this risk. Before you receive a COVID vaccine, make sure to let your vaccination provider know that you have epilepsy, as well as any other important medical information, such as allergies, especially an allergy to any ingredient in the vaccine; allergic reactions to prior vaccines (e.g., flu vaccine); current or recent fever or infection; all medications you are taking, especially medications that suppress the immune system (e.g., immunomodulatory or immunosuppressive medicines) or anticoagulants; or if you are pregnant or nursing, or plan to become pregnant. As with any vaccine, you should not receive the COVID vaccine if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. You should not receive a second dose if you had an allergic reaction to the first dose.
If you already received the COVID vaccine, it is important to continue wearing a mask and social distancing. The current vaccines reduce your risk of getting sick from COVID by up to 90%, depending on the vaccine, but vaccinated people may still be able to spread COVID to others without knowing they are carrying it.
For more information about the COVID vaccine, you can visit the following websites:
- COVID Vaccine Q&A Visit the Epilepsy Society website
- COVID Vaccination Visit the Epilepsy Foundation website
- Epilepsy Society’s Medical Director reassures people with epilepsy over COVID vaccine Visit the Epilepsy Society UK website
- COVID Vaccine and Epilepsy Visit the Living Well with Epilepsy website
What is Known About the COVID Vaccine Booster and Epilepsy?
The CDC has concluded that an additional dose (“booster”) of the COVID vaccine may be necessary for some people, in order to maintain immunity. Over time, boosters may be needed for all the currently available covid vaccines, and recommendations for who should receive them will be changing over time. For current CDC recommendations, please see the CDC’s page on booster shot eligibility.