Encephalitis Society COVID-19 Vaccine consensus statement

First published 29th January, 2021. Updated 7th April, 2021.

Information is changing at a fast pace in relation to COVID-19 so in addition to reading this statement we encourage you to visit the links at the end of this document for the latest developments.

Developed in collaboration with our Scientific Advisory Panel

2020 was a challenging, and at times heart-breaking year for many people.  At the end of the year however we saw some light at the end of the tunnel. COVID-19 vaccines were developed around the world and launched in many countries with more candidates in the pipeline. 

But what does this mean for people who have been affected by encephalitis? Our Encephalitis Society Scientific Advisory Panel have approved the following consensus statement.

General risks

We do not think there is any reason to believe the COVID-19 vaccines will exacerbate encephalitis, the after-effects of encephalitis, provoke a relapse, or make encephalitis related treatment ineffective. This is based on what we know about the way these vaccines work, high-quality evidence from studies of other vaccines, detailed clinical studies of the vaccines and surveillance data after more than 693 million doses of vaccine have been given worldwide (7th April 2021). There is nothing to suggest any COVID-19 vaccine will be dangerous for people who have had encephalitis, including those currently or recently on immunosuppressive treatments.

Furthermore, none of the leading COVID-19 candidate vaccines are ‘live’ – meaning they do not contain any virus capable of causing infection

Vaccine Confidence

We are concerned that there are some people around the world who are reluctant to get vaccinated. We accept that people can be concerned about their health. However, we are also conscious that some concerns about vaccine safety are fuelled by fake news and information which is not evidence-based.

We also recognise that no medical intervention is completely risk-free but in the case of vaccinations it is important to understand that science and history have demonstrated that the significant benefits outweigh the very small, occasional risk.

Detailed surveillance has shown that there is an extremely small risk of unusual blood clots associated with a low blood platelet count in some younger people who receive the first dose of Oxford/Astra-Zeneca Covid-19. The European Medicines Agency and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have therefore recommended that adults aged 18-29 years should be offered an alternative vaccine for the first dose.

Having the majority of the population immunised against COVID-19 is critical to reduce deaths, illness and disability caused by the virus, and in helping us all to be able to return to some kind of normality.

Other important points

For the current vaccines, there is significant protection from a single dose, a second dose offers greater protection. You are therefore encouraged to complete the vaccine schedule and receive the second dose when offered.

We would particularly emphasise that it takes some time (up to a month) after vaccination to achieve immunity, so it is crucial to maintain precautions after initial vaccination. In addition although vaccination protects you, it does not stop transmission, so full measures are needed to protect others and stop the spread.

You should leave at least a 7-day gap between getting the flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccination.

You should only take any vaccine when you are well.

People that are on the clinically extremely vulnerable list should continue to take extra precautions to protect themselves from catching the virus.

If you have had encephalitis or are on treatments related to your encephalitis (for example immunosuppressive treatments) and are concerned, you should speak with the medical team involved in your care.

How the Encephalitis Society Can Help

We are here for you. If you are worried and want to chat to someone, call our support line on +44 (0) 1653 699599 or use our Chat Online button on the website www.encephalitis.info .

We are unable to provide clinical advice to individuals in respect of the vaccine and we recommend you discuss your individual health circumstances with the medical professionals involved in your case, or with your primary or general practitioner or physician.

We also recently recorded a podcast with Professor Tom Solomon about the COVID-19 vaccine and you can view this here.

Other sources of help and information







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