The following information contains an overview of the new coronavirus as well as more detailed information about how it relates to people affected by tuberculosis (TB). For detailed information about the coronavirus, please visit the NHS and Public Health England web pages. This information was updated on 03 March 2021.
COVID-19 vaccination Q&A
I am on treatment for TB. Is it safe to be vaccinated against covid-19?
It is important for everyone who is invited for a COVID-19 vaccination to take up the offer. The vaccines are safe and effective, even if you are on TB treatment.
I have been diagnosed with latent TB. Is it safe to be vaccinated against covid-19?
It is important for everyone who is invited for a COVID-19 vaccination to take up the offer. The vaccines are safe and effective.
I have or have had TB. Should I be prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccine?
Most people with TB are not considered to be at increased risk from COVID-19. Vaccines are being given out in order of age, beginning with older age groups who are more at risk of falling severely ill with COVID-19. You will be invited for a vaccination when your age group comes up.
Clinically vulnerable / shielding group
If you have been contacted by your GP and asked to shield you have been identified as being ‘clinically vulnerable’ to COVID-19. This could be because TB has caused significant damage to your lungs, or because you have other illnesses that increase your risk from COVID-19. People who are clinically vulnerable to covid-19 are being prioritised for vaccination. Please do contact your GP if you have questions about this, if you have not yet been offered a vaccine or if you feel that you should be prioritised.
Where can I get more information about the COVID-19 vaccinations?
For trusted information on COVID-19 vaccination, across the devolved nations of the UK, visit:
- England: www.nhs.uk
- Scotland: www.nhsinform.scot
- Wales: www.phw.nhs.wales
- Northern Ireland: www.publichealth.hscni.net
Watch out for misinformation!
Don’t believe everything you read on social media! Unfortunately, there is a lot of incorrect and harmful information being passed around.
I have been invited for a COVID-19 vaccine but I am worried that I have TB. Is it safe for me to get the vaccine?
Please speak to your GP before booking a vaccination. Though the vaccines are safe, it is important to get assessed for TB as soon as possible and for your doctor to have a clear picture of the symptoms you are experiencing.
I have symptoms that won’t go away. How do I know if it is long-covid or TB?
If you have any symptoms that last for longer than three weeks it is important to speak to a doctor. There are many possible explanations and the symptoms of TB can often be similar to other illnesses, including long-covid. Your doctor will be able to assess your symptoms – though it is always worth mentioning TB.
What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?
The coronavirus that emerged in 2019 causes an illness called COVID-19. COVID-19 mainly affects your lungs and airways.
How is the coronavirus spread?
The coronavirus spreads in droplets that are sent into the air when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes. If you are nearby, you could breathe these droplets in. The droplets can also land on surfaces where they may be picked up by your hands. If you then touch your face you could become infected with COVID-19.
I have been diagnosed with active TB. Am I more at risk of COVID-19?
Having TB does not make you more likely to fall ill with COVID-19. However, if you have pulmonary TB any damage to your lungs could make you more vulnerable to other infections such as COVID-19.
I have been diagnosed with latent TB. Am I more at risk of COVID-19?
If you have latent TB and you are otherwise in good health, you are unlikely to be at more at risk from COVID-19 than the general population.
How can I protect myself?
For both TB and COVID-19 there are lots of simple but effective measures that you can take to protect yourself.
- always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel
- wash your hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds each time with soap and water or hand sanitiser, especially when: you get home or into work, blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food
- avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
If you are being treated for active TB, it is as important as ever to take all your medications as prescribed.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a cough, fever and difficulty in breathing.
What are the differences between symptoms of COVID-19 and symptoms of TB?
Symptoms of COVID-19 usually appear quickly and disappear after about seven days. If they last longer than this, call NHS 111.
Loss of appetite
Symptoms of TB appear gradually over the course of several weeks and persist if they are not treated.
It is thought that people with COVID-19 may also experience other cold and flu-like symptoms. Early TB symptoms may also be similar to those of colds and flu.
**If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19 symptoms (cough, fever, difficulty breathing) the current advice is to follow PHE’s guidance on self-isolation. If you are concerned that you may have TB symptoms (cough, fever, weight loss, loss of appetite, night sweats and tiredness) it is important that you seek medical advice. Please call NHS 111 in the first instance**
I have been diagnosed with active TB. How do I know if I also have COVID-19?
If you have been diagnosed with TB you may already have a range of symptoms. These are most likely to be a result of the TB or side effects to the medication you are taking. However, they could also be caused by other conditions, including COVID-19. It is therefore important to keep a note of all your symptoms and let your TB doctor or nurse know about them, particularly if they worsen.
**Please speak to your TB doctor or nurse or call NHS 111 urgently if you experience any new symptoms that could be COVID-19 (cough, fever, difficulty breathing) or if your condition worsens in any way**
If I develop COVID-19 whilst on treatment for TB, how should I manage this?
If you fall ill with COVID-19 make sure that you inform your TB doctor or nurse. Stay in regular contact with them and let them know about any symptoms you may have or changes to your condition.
It is important that you take all your TB medication as prescribed. Let your TB doctor or nurse know if you need any support with this.
I have been cured of TB. How does COVID-19 affect me?
If you have been cured of TB and do not have any other health conditions then your risk from COVID-19 is likely to be the same as for the general population.
If you have required lung surgery or have been left with lasting damage to your lungs you are considered to be at increased risk from COVID-19. This includes diagnosis with the conditions bronchiectasis or obliterative bronchiolitis. Please follow current government advice on measures you can take to protect yourself. If you develop any new symptoms that could be COVID-19 (cough, fever and difficulty breathing) call NHS 111 urgently – and remember to explain your medical history of TB.
I have an appointment scheduled at the TB clinic, but I am scared that I may be exposed to the coronavirus.
It is important to keep all appointments scheduled by your TB doctor or Nurse. These are necessary to ensure your treatment is working effectively. Please be reassured that TB services have strict infection control procedures. You may also be able to request for your appointment to be held by telephone or online messaging.
I am feeling very anxious about TB and COVID-19. How can I manage this?
Many people are feeling anxious about COVID-19. It is understandable that you may be very concerned if you are also affected by TB. The NHS and Public Health England web pages contain the government’s latest information and advice.
Taking practical steps to protect your health, such as following good hygiene measures and getting the rest and nutrition you need, will reduce your risk of illness and also put your mind at ease.
It may also help to talk about your concerns. TB Alert supports an online forum for people affected by TB.