WASHINGTON – A federal health agency is investigating whether exposure to the fluorinated "forever chemicals" called PFAS could affect the potential effectiveness and duration of a Covid-19 vaccine.
In a Nov. 6 letter to Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR, is “assessing the intersection between PFAS exposure and COVID-19,” the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The CDC is currently carrying out a study looking at Covid-19 among healthcare workers and first responders. Redfield said as part of that study, ATSDR will measure PFAS levels in the participants “to determine the association” between PFAS in their blood and the risk of coronavirus infection and contracting Covid-19.
The study will also gauge the connection of PFAS levels and antibody response to the coronavirus that “may shed light on the potential impact of PFAS exposure on vaccine response and potential duration of vaccine protection,” including for any future Covid-19 vaccines.
“Many first responders who are at high risk of being exposed to COVID-19, including firefighters and servicemembers, already have elevated levels of PFAS in their blood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must assess whether PFAS chemicals have an impact on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines,” said Kildee.
“When it comes to protecting public health, we must always promote transparency and make information available to the public. In Congress, I will continue to make every effort possible to clean up and reduce PFAS chemicals in our environment.”
In his letter, Redfield notes that the CDC and ATSDR are looking at how to incorporate Covid-19 research into the current epidemiological PFAS study taking place in eight states across the U.S.
Various studies have sought to link elevated PFAS exposure with immune system harm and decreased response to vaccines, including studies showing a weaker response to tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations in infants and influenza vaccines for adults.
“People with high exposure to PFAS have non-protective and very low antibody levels after four vaccinations for diphtheria and tetanus,” Dr. Philippe Grandjean, who led a study on PFAS exposure and diminished response to tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations said. “So if a vaccine for Covid is similar, the PFAS will likely inhibit the response from a vaccine. But it is an unknown at this stage.”