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Allergy Clinics Offer Care, Counseling to Manage COVID Vaccine Ractions

Thursday, December 16, 2021

As COVID-19 vaccines started to roll out, many people with a variety of health conditions wondered how their bodies would react to the vaccine. “If I have a food allergy, could I be allergic to the vaccine?” “I’m receiving chemotherapy, is it safe to get vaccinated?” Fortunately, the Allergy, Immunology & Rheumatology (AIR) division has been a haven of counseling and care for patients.

Getting People Vaccinated and Recovered

Emily Weis, M.D., M.S., clinical director for Allergy, and colleagues have been supporting patients who are concerned about vaccine reactions or had them after the shot. While the COVID vaccines are new, the premise for viral vaccines are not. The Allergy team evaluates safety on a case-by-case basis.

A major focus of the team’s work has been pre-consultation with patients concerned about their medical conditions that may put them at risk for reactions. They also help patients determine which vaccine is the best option for them. Staff have handled 20-30 referrals a week since the vaccines became available. “We’ve been nose to the grindstone to get people vaccinated as safely and timely as possible,” said Weis.

The Allergy team is available to people who report allergic symptoms after vaccination. However, “It’s exceedingly rare for patients to have a true allergy," Weis said.

For patients whose health conditions put them at risk for a negative reaction, the team sometimes vaccinates them on-site in the allergy clinics, prepared to provide immediate care.

The clinic has also served as a resource for staff at New York State vaccination sites when they encountered people whose health conditions prompted questions about whether to provide the vaccine. Staff directed individuals to seek consultation with the Allergy team to determine the best approach for vaccination.

A Winding Road to Vaccination

One patient, who is a mother and grandmother, had a long road to receiving a vaccine, but ultimately found a safe ending thanks to Weis and the clinic. When she arrived at a mass vaccine site, she reported that she had autoimmune issues, had previously had a reaction to an antibiotic, and she also has environmental allergies and was showing some slight symptoms that day. Not wanting to put her at risk of an adverse reaction, the site asked her to speak with an allergist before receiving the vaccine.

She went to an allergist, who did not feel comfortable providing a note for her to be vaccinated. Weeks later, her husband spoke to a doctor about his wife’s situation, and the doctor gave him Weis’s number. The patient and Weis had telehealth consultations to get the full picture of her health. They developed a plan to get her to a point where she was no longer displaying her baseline allergic symptoms.

They scheduled an appointment for her to go into the clinic and receive the vaccine under Weis’s supervision. Together, they decided that the Johnson & Johnson single shot was the best for her. The patient remained in the office for one-hour post vaccine administration with continual monitoring. She tolerated the vaccine well, and left the office feeling great.

“She gave me my life back,” the patient said. “I hadn’t been able to leave the house much. I’ve been able to babysit my grandkids again and celebrate birthdays. Dr. Weis gave me a lot of freedom in finding a protocol that worked for me. I trust her completely.”

AIR Research Presented at National Meeting

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The AIR Division \was well represented at the ACR Convergence 2021 which was held virtually from November 3rd through the 9th. This meeting highlights the most current research findings as they relate to Rheumatology. Faculty, post-doctoral fellows and research staff presented their research through numerous posters and oral presentations.

Save the Date: Lupus Education Day, November 13th 2021

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The 15thAnnual Lupus Education Day will be held virtually on November 13, 2021 from 10 – 11:30.  The event is free but registration is required.  Please see our event calendar posting or event flyer for details.

Allen Anandaraja Named Department of Medicine Associate Chair for Wellness

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Allen Anandarajah MD, MSc has been named Associate Chair for Wellness in the Department of Medicine. In his new role, he will be working with department leadership and faculty to promote resilience and wellness across all of our missions.

Dr. Anandarajah joined the URMC faculty in 2003 and served as Clinical Director of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology from 2006-2017. His most recent research interests have been focused on improving the care of patients with rheumatologic diseases from underserved and rural communities and is the founder and Program Director of the RA CHAMP Program at URMC which improves access to care for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Anandarajah has had an ongoing interest in physician wellness for several years. He recently led a departmental retreat attended by representatives from all divisions to address wellness.

Jennifer Anolik Named Interim Division Chief of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology

Monday, October 4, 2021

After eight years as division chief of AIR, Christopher Ritchlin, M.D., M.P.H., is stepping down to focus on research, while Jennifer Anolik M.D., Ph.D., assumes the role of interim chief. Anolik also currently serves as associate chair of research and education for the department of Medicine.

Read More: Jennifer Anolik Named Interim Division Chief of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology

Christopher Ritchlin Receives NPF Lifetime Achievement Award

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Christopher Ritchlin, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Medicine, has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). The celebration was part of the 2021 Commit to Cure Gala hosted in New York City on September 9, where Ritchlin’s long history of research and clinical care was honored.

Ritchlin is director of the Clinical Immunology Research Unit and is a member of the Center for Musculoskeletal Research. He has served as division chief of AIR for the past eight years, growing the division in both size and funding. Ritchlin is a founding member of the Group for Research and Assessment of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis (GRAPPA). Through the NPF, he is co-chair of the COVID-19 Task Force and a member of their scientific advisory committee.

From the Commit to Cure Gala: “It is with great honor that NPF recognizes the lifetime achievements of Dr. Ritchlin with this prestigious award. His efforts for the foundation and his larger contributions to the understanding and advancement of treatment for psoriatic arthritis will resonate for generations to come. His work has had a profound impact on those impacted by psoriatic disease as well as on the NPF community throughout the country.”

Read the NPF press release: NPF Presents Alexa B. Kimball, M.D., MPH and Christopher Ritchlin, M.D., MPH with Lifetime Achievement Award.

Read More: Christopher Ritchlin Receives NPF Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Jessica Stern Receives Career Development Award

Friday, September 24, 2021

Jessica Stern, MD has been awarded a two-year Diversity in Clinical Trials Career Development Award from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation. The purpose of the award is to train and develop investigators who are committed to increasing the diversity of patients enrolled in clinical trials with the goal of yielding new treatments that are effective in all populations.

Drs. Anolik and Barnas Author Chapter in Comprehensive Reference Textbook on Lupus

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Jennifer Anolik, MD, PhD and Jennifer Barnas, MD, PhD co-authored the chapter entitled, “B-cell Biology, Tolerance and Autoantibodies”  in the recently published 6th edition of Lahita’s Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, a highly regarded reference text for clinical specialists.

Dr. Christopher Palma Leads Study of COVID Treatment at URMC

Monday, March 29, 2021

Under the supervision of Christopher Palma, MD, ScM, a clinical trial looking at ruxolitinib as a possible medication to treat COVID-19 patients, was studied at URMC. The medication is currently pending FDA approval. Learn more in the press release from the manufacturer of the drug, Incyte.