As lockdown restrictions ease aesthetics practitioners can open their doors and welcome back their patients, many are asking the risks of getting their dermal filler and their COVID-19 vaccine, especially as over 40s are next in the line to be called up for their jab.
But what are the risks? Many patients that chose dermal fillers, will be questioning if they should wait to get the vaccine, skip it altogether, allow a certain amount of time in between, and so on. The confusion is understandable — the vaccines are new, research is still being conducted, and everyone wants to do the right thing for themselves and their health.
Wondering what that is exactly? Internationally accredited and award-winning aesthetics expert Dr. Martyn King, a General Medical Council (GMC) registered doctor, The Aesthetic Complications Expert Group World (ACE) Medical Director, Vice Chair of the The Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) and brand ambassador of UTH, shared his advice on how all the COVID-19 vaccines interact with dermal fillers, how frequently this happens, and how to move forward.
Dr. King has led The Aesthetic Complications Expert (ACE) Group World on releasing new guidance on dermal filler delayed onset reactions following COVID-19 infection and vaccination.
The six-page paper explains that although there are currently few published cases that demonstrate delayed onset nodules (DONs) or delayed onset reactions (DORs) following either the COVID-19 vaccination or infection, it is a cause of concern to aesthetic practitioners and patients alike.
How do fillers interact with COVID-19 vaccines?
“Delayed onset nodules or reactions can occur weeks, months or even years after receiving a soft tissue filler treatment when the immune system is challenged.
“Potential triggers include viral illnesses, bacterial infections, dental procedures, excessive UV exposure, subsequent minimally invasive aesthetic treatments, and vaccinations. Thereby, it is essential that all practitioners and patients are mindful of this risk”
Dr. King emphasised that practitioners should consent their patients appropriately, risk assess their patients, time their treatments around their expected vaccination date and ensure they are knowledgeable on how and when to intervene if a complication does occur.
Are these reactions common?
When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines and facial fillers, “A reaction is rare, but can happen,” Dr. King says. “Obviously, as the roll out of the vaccines is still happening at pace and hitting the proposed deadlines, we can statistically anticipate more of these cases – but that’s not to cause any more fear or worry.”
Martyn emphasises that patients need to keep front of mind that delayed inflammatory reactions to fillers are not unique to the COVID-19 vaccine. “This type of reaction has been seen in other vaccines, cases of the flu, dental procedures, and any time when your body’s immune system is in a heightened state or challenged.”
A study of 106 participants from 18 different countries concluded that COVID-19 vaccines did not appear to confer a greater risk of a soft tissue reaction than other identified triggers*.
What timeframe should I stick to?
“To minimise the risk, patients should look for their trusted practitioner to take a full medical history, including previous and recent COVID-19 infection and vaccination schedule.
“Although current evidence is limited, the ACE Group and I recommend that practitioners should not be performing soft tissue filler treatments either two weeks before or three weeks after COVID-19 vaccination. This guidance would apply to all current COVID-19 vaccinations.”
What’s the treatment for potential reactions?
The main takeaway from Dr. King is that patients understand that in the unlikely situation of a reaction – it can be resolved over time with treatment.
“The treatments that can be used include antihistamines, corticosteroids, or injections of hyaluronidase, which is an enzyme that can be used to dissolve the filler,” Dr. King explains. “Reactions typically should resolve within days to weeks, and for some people, they may subside even without any specific treatment. Again, I want to highlight that it is rare, we are just guiding as we should.”
Does this apply to BOTOX® too?
“There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination or infection has effects on other aesthetic procedures, including botulinum toxin.” Dr. King states, however, the ACE Group recommends avoiding treatments for one week post vaccine, due to some patients becoming unwell and experiencing flu-like symptoms following vaccination.
Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine even if I have a facial filler?
“Of course, I would always recommend that you get the vaccine even if you have had or are planning to get fillers,“ Dr. King says. “If a reaction happens, the experts here at ACE know how to manage it and it is considered temporary, so the benefits of getting the vaccine very much outweigh the potential risks of the possible reaction with dermal filler.”
He added: “Patients already treated with dermal fillers should not be discouraged from receiving vaccines of any kind. Similarly, patients who have had vaccines should not be put off from receiving dermal fillers in the future. We of course would always recommend that patients research their practitioner and can do using our tool, as well as which product to use, I would recommend UTH, which is a new collection of dermal fillers that delivers safe, effective and long-lasting results across the mirage of patient needs.”