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Neurofibromatosis and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Many individuals with NF have concerns about whether their NF diagnosis places them at additional risk of side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. Fortunately, we have no evidence of specific safety concerns related to the COVID-19 vaccine in people with NF, including no increased risk of benign or malignant tumor growth, pain, or other symptoms. Individuals who are on treatments that can suppress the immune system, such as chemotherapy, should discuss the safety and efficacy of vaccination with their health care provider, as should individuals with an adverse reaction to previous vaccinations.  

In addition, some people are concerned about whether the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both of which are mRNA-based vaccines, can interact with the NF genes or their mRNA transcripts. Messenger RNA (mRNA) is the RNA copy of a specific gene that is the code used to make a protein.  In the case of NF1, the protein is neurofibromin; for NF2 it is called merlin; and for the vaccine, it is a protein that is unique to the virus. It is important to understand that these mRNAs have nothing to do with one another and do not interact with one another.  Hence, there is no danger that the COVID-19 vaccine mRNA will have any adverse effect on the function of the NF mRNA or the NF genes. The vaccines also do not modify the DNA in any way, and therefore do not pose any specific safety risks to persons with any form of NF.

-Written by Bruce Korf, MD, PhD from the University of Alabama Birmingham and fully supported by the Children’s Tumor Foundation Clinical Care Advisory Board.