Rheumatology is a medical specialty that cares for conditions which affect the musculoskeletal system, particularly the joints and surrounding soft tissues.
We look after patients with inflammatory arthritis, connective tissue diseases such as Lupus, Osteoporosis, Vasculitis, Osteoarthritis and soft tissue rheumatic complaints.
Many of the conditions treated are linked with the immune system attacking different body tissues.
Guidance for Rheumatology patients who are shielding (Updated 30 June 2020)
Coronavirus vaccination programme in Northern Ireland
You will be aware that the roll-out of the new coronavirus vaccine has started in Northern Ireland as of December 2020. Currently the Pfizer/BioNTec and the Astra Zeneca (Oxford) vaccines are in use (and others that will follow). They will be offered to people of certain age groups and in certain risk categories. This will include patients on immunosuppressant therapies which include:
DMARD drugs such as Methotrexate including Methotrexate injections, Azathioprine (Imuran), Leflunomide (Arava) mycophenolate (Cellcept), Apremilast (Otezla)
Please note that Sulfasalazine and Hydroxychloroquine have been classed as not being immunosuppressive and are not included.
BIOLOGIC drugs such as Etanercept (Enbrel, Benepali), Adalimumab(Humira, Imraldi, Amgevita) Infliximab, Golimumab (Simponi), Certolizumab (Cimzia), Tociluzimab (RoActemra), Abatacept (Orencia), Belimumab (Benlysta), Anakinra (Kineret), Secukinumab (Cosentyx), Ixekizumab (Taltz), Ustekinumab (Stelara) ,Baracitinib (Olumiant), Tofacitinib (Xeljanz) Sarilumab (Kevzara), Rituximab (Mabthera)
CORTICOSTEROIDS (eg prednisolone tablets)
The Northern Trust has been tasked to deliver the Pfizer/ BioNTec vaccine to patients receiving biological drug therapy whilst GPs are expected to deliver the Astra Zeneca (Oxford) vaccine to patients under their care receiving DMARD drugs and corticosteroids. The current vaccines require 2 doses to be administered.
The current advice from the rheumatology department in the Northern Trust is that patients on these drug therapies should avail of the coronavirus vaccine offered to them (unless they have a history of serious allergy to previous drugs/ vaccines).
Patients are advised that there would be no need to stop their current biologic/ DMARD/ steroid therapies to accommodate the vaccination.
For patients who are due for Rituximab therapy they will need to have received both doses of their coronavirus vaccine ahead of their planned treatment.
Rheumatology Advice Line
We offer a telephone and email advice service for patients who are under the care of a Rheumatology Consultant in the Northern Trust who have been diagnosed with an inflammatory condition.
The advice service is run by trained nurses who specialise in Rheumatology. If you need urgent advice, or advice not related to your rheumatology condition, you should contact your GP.