COVID-19 information

This page was updated on 06 November 2023

This information is for anyone with axial spondyloarthritis (axial SpA) including people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS)

NASS has advice and guidance on COVID-19 for people living with axial SpA

Updated 6 November 2023

Since the start of the COVID19 pandemic NASS has carefully monitored the situation for people living with axial SpA . This page includes the answers to your most frequently asked questions. If you have a question which we haven’t covered below please contact the NASS Helpline on 0208 741 1515 between 10:00 and 16:00 Monday to Friday. You can also email

COVID19 Vaccine

Download an article on the COVID19 vaccine written by Dr Antoni Chan, Consultant Rheumatologist at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust and published in the NASS members magazine, AS News. COVID19 Vaccine information.

The British Society for Immunology has also produced a detailed guide to COVID vaccinations which covers common questions and concerns.

More detailed information on the COVID19 vaccination programme can be found in the Greenbook.

Research on the COVID19 vaccine specifically relating to people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases can be found towards the bottom of this page.

The autumn 2023 COVID vaccine programme

The government has confirmed which groups will be entitled to an autumn booster:

  • Residents in a care home for older adults
  • All adults aged 65 years and over
  • People aged six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • People aged 12 to 64 who are household contacts of people with weakened immune systems
  • People aged 16 to 64 who are carers and staff working in care homes for older adults

In autumn 2022, all over-50s were offered an extra dose, but the government’s advisers on vaccines recommended that only over-65s should automatically be included this year.

The NHS will contact those who are eligible. The roll-out has been brought forward in England, because of a new Covid variant, BA.2.86, which was first detected in the UK on 18 August. Boosters will be given from 11 September, so that as many people as possible are vaccinated by 31 October.

Anyone also eligible for a free flu jab may receive it at the same time.

The clinical risk group includes those taking:

  • Biologic therapy (including anti TNF and anti Il-17A)
  • High-dose corticosteroids  (20mg or more of prednisolone per day) for more than a month

It also more generally refers to ‘Those who require long term immunosuppressive treatment for conditions
including, but not limited to, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, scleroderma and psoriasis’. For more information check page 23 in the Green Book chapter on COVID19

Lateral flow tests

If you’re eligible for COVID-19 treatments, you should keep rapid lateral flow tests at home.

From 6 November 2023, eligible patients will be able to pick up free rapid lateral flow tests from a local pharmacy. This will replace the current online and telephone ordering services for free lateral flow tests provided by GOV.UK and 119. When picking up lateral flow tests, the pharmacy may ask you questions about your medical history to confirm you’re eligible for free tests. If you have a copy of a letter or email sent to you by the NHS that says you’re eligible for COVID-19 treatments, do take this with you. A letter or email is not essential but it will help to more easily and quickly confirm your eligibility.

Someone else can collect free tests on your behalf. If you do not have a friend, relative or carer who can do this for you then you may be able to book a volunteer responder by calling 0808 196 3646.

Anyone collecting free tests on your behalf should provide the pharmacy with your details and any relevant letters or e-mails about COVID treatments, if you have them. The required details include:

  • The medical condition(s) confirming your eligibility
  • Your NHS number (if available)
  • Your full name
  • Your date of birth
  • Your address

Treatments for COVID19

The latest treatments can help patients in the earliest stages of infection. These treatments must be used as soon as possible after symptoms start, following a positive COVID test.

Those people who are considered to be at the highest risk of COVID can access these treatments. There are more details about the treatments and who is eligible on the NHS website. According to the NHS, people with an inflammatory arthritis like axial SpA and who are taking biologics, JAK inhibitors OR who have been on corticosteroids (equivalent to or greater than 10 mg per day of prednisolone) for at least the 28 days prior to a positive test are viewed as higher risk.

To get treatment:

  • Take a test as soon as possible, even if your symptoms are mild. Only take a test if you have symptoms.
  • If your test result is positive, call your GP surgery, NHS 111 or hospital specialist as soon as possible. They will be able to decide if you need a referral for an assessment for COVID-19 treatment.
  • If your test result is negative, but you still have symptoms of COVID-19, continue to test once a day for the next two days.


What research is being carried out into COVID19 and axial SpA?

In order to understand how COVID19 might impact on people living with rheumatological conditions like axial SpA (AS) a Global Rheumatology Alliance was established. Its aim is to increase our knowledge and understanding of how COVID19 both affects people with rheumatic conditions and if the medications people commonly take changes their risk. It is a database and clinicians from around the world are registering details of patients with rheumatic conditions who have contracted COVID19.

You can read summaries of their research findings.