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COVID-19 and arthritis

We know people living with arthritis have a lot of questions about COVID-19 and arthritis. We’ve put together a list of common questions with answers below, as well as links to other resources.
In addition to this Q&A, we've also hosted a series of special Arthritis Talks to provide answers to your questions about COVID-19 and arthritis, your medications and what do if your surgery has been delayed. Watch the webinars again, or see what you missed.

The Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance (CAPA) has also created two videos related to COVID-19. The first is COVID-19 and arthritis and the second is about the COVID-19 vaccines and arthritis

The Arthritis Society continues to follow public health advice in encouraging all staff nationwide who can to continue to work from home.

The situation continues to evolve, so please check back regularly. Please take necessary precautions to stay healthy.

Common questions

  • Am I at greater risk if I have arthritis?

    It’s not clear yet whether having arthritis makes you more susceptible. What we do know is that – much like seasonal flu – older adults and people with autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis may be more likely to get seriously sick if they do become infected, so it’s important to take appropriate precautions. 

    The main concern isn’t the virus itself, but secondary bacterial infection and other complications that may arise when your body’s defenses are in a weakened state.

  • What kind of precautions should I take?

    People are being advised to avoid crowded spaces, work from home if possible, limit close contact to people within your household and essential care providers (refer to specific recommendations in your region for guidance on bubbles or cohorts), wear a mask when in indoor public spaces and maintain a distance of two metres (six feet) from those around you.

    Observe the following hygiene recommendations from Health Canada:

    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
    • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
    • When coughing or sneezing: cover your mouth and nose with your arm or tissues to reduce the spread of germs. Immediately dispose of any tissues you have used into the garbage as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as toys, electronic devices and doorknobs
    • Stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others

    Health Canada also suggests you think ahead and make a plan to ensure you have adequate supplies in case infection rates rise in the coming weeks or months. To minimize contact with other people consider grocery pick-up or delivery; and consider asking your pharmacy if it offers free medication delivery.

    The Canadian Rheumatology Association is also recommending you get your vaccinations updated when possible, including seasonal influenza, pneumococcal and pertussis vaccines. These vaccines won’t prevent COVID-19 but could lessen secondary infection and will prevent illnesses that could resemble it.

  • Should I stop my medication?

    Some inflammatory arthritis medications suppress the immune system, which may make you more vulnerable to infection. For most Canadians there is no need to stop medications as the risk of contracting the virus is low. For some patients, however, your physician may advise you to stop certain medications in case of infection.

    It is important that you do not make any changes to your medications without consulting your physician.

    In general:

    If you are well, DO NOT STOP your medications

    • If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19, or significant symptoms, consult your healthcare provider. You may be advised to interrupt the use of DMARDS, biologics or JAK inhibitors when you are ill.
    • If you have been exposed to COVID-19 but have no symptoms, consult your healthcare provider who may advise you to temporarily interrupt your biologics or JAK inhibitors pending a negative test and/or are symptom-free for 14 days.

    If you’ve stopped your medications, consult with your doctor or rheumatologist before resuming.

    See the Canadian Rheumatology Association recommendations about medications. 

    Many jurisdictions have implemented new telehealth consultations for rheumatology patients during this time. So please follow your local developments closely.

  • What if I need medical care for arthritis or other conditions during this pandemic?

    Do not put your health on hold. If you need urgent medical care, do not delay in seeking assistance. Hospitals and emergency rooms in Canada are equipped to keep people safe. It is important you seek care for your health concerns so they don’t get out of hand and lead to lasting complications or poor outcomes.

    For appointments, many healthcare professionals are currently providing virtual care by telephone or internet when possible. If you have questions about your appointment, it is best to contact your healthcare provider’s office for further direction.

    • INFUSIONS: If you are receiving a biologic medication at an infusion centre, you should continue to receive medications as prescribed. Some medications have injectable versions you could be switched to, if appropriate. Consult with your doctor, who can advise you if your medication frequency can be changed. If you have further questions about your infusion, consult with your rheumatologist.
    • LAB TESTS: Consult with your doctor to determine if you can reduce the frequency of your lab testing, then proceed with your lab testing as directed.
    • VACCINATIONS: In general, people who are receiving immunosuppressing medications should not receive live vaccines, though it is recommended they receive inactivated vaccines as indicated. It is important to get an annual flu shot and other relevant inactivated vaccines. (For more information about the flu shot, see earlier question). You can learn more in our flourish article on Vaccines and Arthritis. If you have symptoms of an infection (any infection, not just COVID), delay vaccination. Otherwise, COVID should not impact the timing of vaccinations, and the benefits of helping your body fight potential infections is greater than the potential risks and side effects.
    • OTHER HEALTH ISSUES: You may wish to consider delaying unnecessary in-person visits. There are many healthcare services that can be delivered over the phone or online, and most pharmacies will deliver medication, so contact your physician or pharmacist as appropriate to confirm.

    Remember, for any in-person medical appointments, confirm ahead of time if you have any flu-like symptoms and notify the site before going in case they have specific requirements for you to follow.

  • Should I get the flu vaccine?
    If you are living with arthritis, particularly inflammatory forms like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you may wonder if getting a flu shot is right for you. Talk to your healthcare provider, of course, but in general, a flu shot is recommended for most people.  

    We know this year there appears to be an increased demand for flu shots and there are shortages in some areas of the country. People are being asked to be patient while provinces and territories work to secure enough supply to meet demand. If you have concerns about accessing the vaccine, please speak with your healthcare provider. 

    More information about the flu shot is available from the Public Health Agency of Canada or your local public health department. 

    For more information about arthritis and the flu vaccine, read our flourish article

  • Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

    In Canada, four vaccines have been approved for use by Health Canada as of March 11, 2021. 

    Further below on this page is a brief explanation of each of them.

    The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that all Canadian adults who are able to, receive a COVID-19 vaccination to protect themselves and others. 

    If you have osteoarthritis
    You are encouraged to get the vaccine when it is available to you. 

    If you have a rheumatic disease
    While people with rheumatic diseases were mostly excluded from vaccine trials, there is now evidence from real world use of COVID-19 vaccines in this population.   

    Based on this new evidence, NACI updated its recommendations on May 28, 2021.

    The updated recommendation is that a complete two-dose vaccine series with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) should be offered to people who are immunosuppressed. NACI does note that individuals who are immunosuppressed from disease or treatment should be aware they may have a reduced immune response to any authorized COVID-19 vaccine series. For more information, visit NACI’s website (under “Vaccines” and “Recommendations”.)

    As part of the update on May 28, NACI also recommended that second doses should be offered as soon as possible, with priority given to those at highest risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. The Arthritis Society believes this includes people with arthritis who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed and is advocating for the interval between second doses to be shortened for these individuals.

    The Canadian Rheumatology Association has created a decision aid [PDF] for people with autoimmune rheumatic disease who are over 18 to use in their discussions with their health-care provider.  

    Note: Decisions about the distribution of the vaccines and prioritization of specific populations are made by individual provinces or territories. For information about when you might receive the vaccine or information specific to where you live, please refer to your provincial or territorial health ministry website.

    The different vaccines


    • Was approved for use in Canada in December 2020 for individuals 16 and older.
    • Has been first administered to high-risk populations (front-line health care works, long-term care residents, seniors 80+).
    • Is a two-dose vaccine with the manufacturer recommending the second dose be administered 21 days later.
      • In order to vaccinate as many adults as quickly as possible, NACI recently recommended the interval between doses be extended to four months. 
    • In clinical trials, it had a reported efficacy of 95 per cent. 


    • Was approved for use in Canada in December 2020 for individuals 18 and older.
    • Has been first administered to high-risk populations (front-line health care works, long-term care residents, seniors 80+).
    • Is a two-dose vaccine with the manufacturer recommending the second dose be administered 28 days later.
      • In order to vaccinate as many adults as quickly as possible, NACI recently recommended the interval between doses be extended to four months. 
    • In clinical trials, it had a reported efficacy of 94 per cent. 

    Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based on mRNA technology that work by giving your cells instructions on how to make a piece of the virus called a protein. Your immune system learns to recognize the protein. If you become infected with the virus, your body gets rid of the infection, so you don’t become sick. These vaccines do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.


    • Was approved for use in Canada at the end of February 2021.
    • It's recommended for adults 30 and older.
    • Is a two-dose vaccine with the manufacturer recommending the second dose be administered 28 days later.
      • In order to vaccinate as many adults as quickly as possible, NACI recently recommended the interval between doses be extended to four months. 
    • In clinical trials, it had a reported efficacy of 63-82 per cent (efficacy varied depending on the timing of the second dose). 
    • It’s made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus). It has been modified to look more like coronavirus – although it doesn’t cause illness. Once injected, it teaches the body's immune system how to fight the real virus, should it need to.

    Johnson & Johnson 

    • Was approved for use in Canada at the beginning of March 2021 for individuals 18 and older.
    • Unlike the other vaccines approved for use in Canada, it is a one-dose vaccine.
    • In clinical trials, it had a reported efficacy of 66-85 per cent.
    • It is an adenovirus vector vaccine that uses a harmless cold virus to deliver a gene that carries the blueprint for the spiky protein found on the surface of the coronavirus. The virus enters cells, which then follow the genetic instructions to construct a replica of the coronavirus spike. The immune system uses these replicas to recognize — and respond to — the real thing if a person were to become infected.

    Additional vaccines from other pharmaceutical companies are still being tested. In fact, there are 150 different vaccines at different stages of development around the world.

    The benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine are:

    • Prevention: while the efficacy of each vaccine differs, they are all safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 in people who get vaccinated. (For comparison, the efficacy of the flu vaccine is between 40-60 per cent each year).    
    • Reduction: COVID-19 is less severe in people who get the vaccine but who still get sick.  
    • Protection: getting vaccinated helps protect people around you.

    There are some possible temporary side effects or risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, including:

    • Sore arm at injection site
    • Tiredness
    • Fever, chills
    • Headache
    • Temporarily swollen lymph nodes
    • General muscle or joint pain
  • Should I hold my medication if I’m getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

    For people with rheumatic disease, any decision to hold medications should be discussed between a patient and their rheumatologist or healthcare team. 

    The following information from the Canadian Rheumatology Association (CRA) does offer some guidance. This is the current recommendation in Canada. 

    People taking rituximab: Based on studies from other vaccines, rituximab is expected to decrease the immune response. Prior guidelines for other vaccines in patients with DMARDs have recommended that immunization be deferred to at least five months after the last dose and at least four weeks prior to the subsequent dose of rituximab. 

    People taking other disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): Some other DMARDs may reduce protection from the vaccine. Given the strong benefit of taking the COVID-19 vaccine, it is likely that its benefit will still be strong for most patients on these kinds of drugs. Continuing medications will often be the safest option to prevent disease flares until more evidence is available.  

    Please note that while the American College of Rheumatology has recommended holding some medications, the CRA’s COVID-19 guideline panel did not feel that this guidance should be endorsed in Canada at this point. But the CRA will continue to review and monitor this guidance. 

  • Is a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine recommended since I’m immunocompromised?

    Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recently recommended:

    • Individuals who are moderately to severely immunocompromised* and have not yet been immunized should be immunized with a primary series of three doses of an authorized mRNA vaccine. 

    • Individuals who are moderately to severely immunocompromised* and have previously received a 1- or 2-dose complete primary series, including those who received a mixed vaccine schedule, should be offered an additional dose of an authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.  

    (*Immunocompromised includes individuals actively being treated with biologics that are significantly immunosuppressive.)  

    The Canadian Rheumatology Association (CRA) also recently updated its position statement [PDF] on COVID-19 vaccination, which included the recommendation that people treated with certain specific medications (anti-CD20 agents, mycophenolic acid and/or glucocorticoids) be prioritized for a third dose of the vaccine and that a third dose be considered for patients on other immunosuppressive treatments (particularly abatacept, JAK inhibitors, and antimetabolites). 

    The Arthritis Society supports these recommendations. In order to protect the health and safety of people living with arthritis, we encourage all provinces to implement comprehensive recommendations that will best support immunocompromised patients.  

    To date, all provinces have made an announcement on a third dose. They do differ, so please check your province's page for specifics:

    We are in regular communication with arthritis stakeholders and governments to ensure high-risk immunocompromised patients are protected. We will update this page as more information becomes available. 

  • What precautions should I be taking if I have a child with arthritis?
    The advice is the same for both adults and children. Physical distancing and public health measures should be followed for both adults and children. Encouraging your child to wash their hands and follow good personal hygiene, including avoiding touching their face and covering their mouths and noses while coughing or sneezing, are good simple reminders. It’s also recommended anyone over the age of two, who is able to, wear a mask or face covering. 

    The two vaccines currently approved for use in Canada are not approved for people under 18 (Moderna) or under 16 (Pfizer). 

    COVID-19 infection does seem to be milder in children than in adults or older individuals. Currently, there is no evidence that children with auto-inflammatory diseases are more likely to contract COVID-19 or to have a worse case.  

    As some schools across the country are offering in-person learning, you may want to discuss with your child’s rheumatologist if any additional precautions need to be taken to keep your child safe. Be prepared to discuss your child’s needs with the school and ensure it’s able to accommodate them.

    Remind children to keep at least six feet away from others when possible and remind young children not to touch others or put objects or toys in their mouths. For older children/teens, encourage them to replace physical greetings like fist bumps, high fives and hugs with virtual high fives or verbal greetings.

    The U.S. Center for Disease control has created a number of back to school planning checklists for parents/guardians, that include tips for in-person and virtual learning.

    Cassie + Friends has also created a COVID-19 parental FAQ, which includes specific real-life examples. 
  • What should I do if my joint replacement surgery has been delayed or cancelled?

    Operating rooms in many provinces have resumed non-emergency procedures, but there was already a backlog of joint replacement surgeries in much of Canada before COVID-19, and the shutdown has made those backlogs longer.

    If you are one of the thousands of Canadians whose joint replacement surgery was delayed or cancelled, the best thing you can do is to keep moving and make the most of this time to prepare yourself. Our surgery resources can help you understand what to expect from your surgery, be better prepared for it and have a more successful recovery. You can also visit our flourish article on What to Do if Your Joint Surgery has Been Delayed.

    In the event that you’re coping with significant pain, there are a number of things you can do to help make your wait as comfortable as possible. Above all, make sure to continue taking your medications as prescribed, do not overmedicate and stay in touch with your healthcare team. Learn more in our guide to managing chronic pain, or in our resource on Drug-Free Pain Management Options.

    You may also want to keep tabs on our advocacy page, where we are calling on the federal and provincial governments to work together on a solution to address both the pre-existing joint surgery wait times and the additional backlog from the COVID-19 shutdown.

  • What should I do if I have symptoms?

    Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from person to person.

    The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

    • fever (feeling hot to the touch, a temperature of 37.8 degrees Celsius or higher)
    • chills
    • cough that's new or worsening (continuous, more than usual)
    • barking cough, making a whistling noise when breathing (croup)
    • shortness of breath (out of breath, unable to breathe deeply)
    • sore throat
    • difficulty swallowing
    • runny, stuffy or congested nose (not related to seasonal allergies or other known causes or conditions)
    • lost sense of taste or smell
    • pink eye (conjunctivitis)
    • headache that’s unusual or long lasting
    • digestive issues (nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain)
    • muscle aches
    • extreme tiredness that is unusual (fatigue, lack of energy)
    • falling down often
    • for young children and infants: sluggishness or lack of appetite

    Call 911 if any of the following symptoms cause a health emergency:

    • severe difficulty breathing (struggling for each breath, can only speak in single words)
    • severe chest pain (constant tightness or crushing sensation)
    • feeling confused or unsure of where you are
    • losing consciousness

    You can infect others even if you aren’t showing symptoms, or be infected by someone who is without symptoms. Therefore, it is important to always take precautions whether or not you or someone else appears sick.

    If you are experiencing symptoms, phone ahead to your health care provider or public health authority and let them know:  

    1. the symptoms you are experiencing,
    2. any pre-existing conditions you are living with, and
    3. any medications you are taking

    …then follow their instructions.

    If you were in close physical contact with anyone in the 48 hours before your symptoms began, let them know to monitor their health and to self-isolate.

    If your symptoms are mild, you will probably be told to treat it like a cold or flu – isolate yourself for 14 days, get rest and drink liquids. If your symptoms are moderate or severe, you will likely be sent to the hospital where they can monitor you for complications such as pneumonia.

    In general, Health Canada advises the following steps if you are sick to help reduce contact with others:

    • Stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days (unless directed to seek medical care)
    • If you must leave your home, wear a mask and maintain a two-metre distance from others
    • Avoid individuals in hospitals and long-term care centres, especially older adults and those with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems
    • Avoid having visitors to your home
    • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing and sneezing
    • Have supplies delivered to your home instead of running errands
      • Supplies should be dropped off outside to ensure a two-metre distance

    Self-assessment tools

    If you’re feeling unwell, first complete your provincial/territorial online COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Only if you’re experiencing related symptoms, call your provincial health team, and they will provide the next steps.

  • Should I wear a mask or gloves in public?


    The continued spread of the coronavirus has led many jurisdictions in Canada to mandate wearing a mask or face covering when in all indoor public spaces (e.g. in stores, apartment buildings, public transit). Exemptions have been made for persons with an underlying medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask. Because a person can carry the virus before they start showing symptoms or never appear symptomatic, masks can help prevent people from unintentionally infecting others. A non-medical mask doesn’t necessarily protect the person wearing it, however.

    When wearing a mask, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends:

    • be made of at least three layers
      • two layers should be tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen
      • the third (middle) layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric
    • be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaping
    • allow for easy breathing
    • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
    • be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments
    • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
    • maintain its shape after washing and drying

    It’s also important to remember:

    • you can’t touch a mask while you’re wearing it, or pull it under your chin for a break
    • it must be changed as soon as it’s damp and either safely disposed of or carefully placed in the washing machine
    • you must also wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your mask

    Note that medical masks with an ‘N95’ rating are to be reserved for front-line healthcare workers who risk potential exposure when they are working.

    If you fail to follow these precautions, you could get coronavirus from handling a dirty mask.


    For the general public, wearing gloves is not necessary in most situations, like running errands. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends wearing gloves when you’re cleaning or caring for someone who is sick.

    If you do choose to wear gloves in public:

    • wash or sanitize your hands before putting on a pair of gloves
    • use well-fitting latex or vinyl gloves
    • DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING ELSE – your face, your phone, your car door handle – until you have removed your gloves and washed your hands
    • when you are done with your gloves, turn them inside out and dispose of them in a garbage container with a bag liner
      • failure to dispose of your gloves in a safe and responsible manner increases the risk of exposure for yourself and others
    • wash or sanitize your hands after handling or disposing of your gloves

    If you fail to follow these precautions, your gloves could result in cross-contamination and expose you and others to the coronavirus.

  • As workplaces begin to reopen, what should I do?/ What should I do if I’m an essential services worker?

    Closures and stay-at-home orders can vary widely by province/territory, or even within a region.

    Frontline workers, especially those who are themselves at greater risk or are living with vulnerable people (seniors, immunocompromised), should take extra precautions:

    • Follow your employer’s safety protocols at all times. If you are unclear about the safety protocols in effect in your workplace, speak with your manager, HR or union representative as appropriate.
    • Wash hands frequently during shifts, do not touch face without washing hands, use masks appropriately and avoid touching the inside of the mask.
    • Where possible, avoid working in confined spaces and keep a safe distance from others (at least two metres/six feet). If it’s not possible to maintain that distance, the use of a face covering is recommended.
    • After shifts, remove work clothes upon entering your home, remove and leave your footwear at entry, wash your hands, shower and wash your hair and put on fresh clothing before greeting others in the home.
    • Advise your employer if you have been exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive, or someone who is showing symptoms for whom the test results are pending. You may be required to stay home for up to 14 days unless otherwise advised by your doctor.
    • Report any development of COVID-19 symptoms to your employer and the local health authority, and stay home unless and until directed otherwise by your doctor.

    For frontline workers who are immunocompromised, there are no national standards in place. Here are some questions to consider:

    • Is your autoimmune condition controlled?
    • What immunosuppressants are you on?
    • Can you work from home?
    • Do you have adequate personal protective equipment to do your job?
    • Can you be placed in an environment with limited exposure to others?
    • Are you able to maintain physical distancing protocol while travelling to work?
    • Speak to your doctor about your concerns.

    If your doctor agrees that you are at elevated risk, you may wish to raise your concerns with your employer to see what options they might suggest. You may also wish to review the Government of Canada’s discussion of your rights and responsibilities as an employee, including your right to refuse dangerous work. At the time of writing, the existence of COVID-19 in the community has not been seen as sufficient grounds to refuse work, even for those who are immunocompromised. However, if your employer fails to adhere to mandatory safety precautions, they may be contributing to a dangerous work environment.

  • Why are my arthritis medications being discussed in the news as potential treatments for COVID-19?

    Researchers around the world are actively investigating treatments for COVID-19. One approach to treatment is to try to reduce the symptoms of the disease. Some medications used to treat inflammatory arthritis, like hydroxychloroquine, colchicine tocilizumab, and sarilumab work by suppressing the body’s immune system. Drugs that blunt specific parts of the immune system are being tested to see whether they can prevent inflammation caused by COVID-19, which is a major complication in severe disease. These drugs are not being tested to directly treat the coronavirus infection, but to reduce the body’s overwhelming inflammatory response that occurs in certain infected individuals.

    An early study reported in January 2021 showed treating critically ill COVID-19 patients with arthritis drugs tocilizumab or sarilumab significantly improved survival rates and reduced the amount of time patients needed intensive care. The study has not yet been peer reviewed. 

    While these drugs are currently approved for some indications like inflammatory arthritis, they are not approved for the treatment of COVID-19. We will continue to monitor the situation, and in the event that one or more of these drugs are confirmed as COVID-19 treatments, we will advocate to ensure adequate supply for people who need the drugs to manage their arthritis.

    The Arthritis Society is funding a research project to examine how people with arthritis are impacted by COVID-19. Find out more, and help support this important research.

  • Should I be concerned about access to tocilizumab (Actemra)?

    With the number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 increasing during the third wave of the pandemic (April 2021), there have been reports of supply shortages of tocilizumab.  

    In addition to its primary use as a treatment for inflammatory types of arthritis, it’s being used to treat moderately and critically ill COVID-19 patients in hospital.  

    Currently, there are no supply issues for arthritis patients who use this drug even if doctors in hospitals are being asked to ration their use of it for COVID patients. The distribution networks are different for the drug as a hospital-based COVID treatment and as an arthritis treatment. 

    We’ll continue to monitor the situation and continue to advocate to ensure people with arthritis have access to a stable supply of the medications they need. 

    For more information on the current tocilizumab situation, you can read a statement released by the Canadian Rheumatology Association in early April. 

  • Should I be concerned about access to drugs like hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)?

    Early in the pandemic, there were reports of patients in some provinces experiencing challenges accessing hydroxychloroquine (HCQ, brand name Plaquenil). These temporary shortages were a result of a spike in demand and supply chain issues with some manufacturers.

    Thanks to the combined efforts of governments, industry, professional associations and community stakeholders including the Arthritis Society, these issues were identified and successfully addressed, so that Canadians should no longer experience any issues accessing their needed medication. (For more information, see our advocacy page.)

    We strongly support the Canadian Rheumatology Association Position Statement on COVID-19 and Hydroxychloroquine Supply and the call for priority access to HCQ for patients with rheumatic conditions to treat these chronic diseases. 

    • QUEBEC RESIDENTS: Effective May 1, 2020, INESSS has lifted its restrictions (French only) on which patients could receive hydroxychloroquine, as supply has now been restored.

    If you are affected by a drug shortage and have concerns or symptoms of a flare, please contact your rheumatologist. As well, self-management and lifestyle choices may help in managing your symptoms and condition. 

  • Is it true that ibuprofen could make COVID-19 symptoms worse?

    There is currently no publicly available scientific evidence to suggest that ibuprofen worsens the effects of the coronavirus. Patients who are using ibuprofen for other medical conditions are not being advised to stop. It is important to remember that you should not make any medication changes without consulting your physician.

  • Can anything cure COVID-19, or protect me from catching it?

    As of now, there are NO confirmed treatments for COVID-19, either to prevent infection or relieve symptoms. All claims to the contrary from people trying to sell ‘protection’ or ‘cures’ are misleading at best, and potentially dangerous. The best way to protect yourself is still to practice physical distancing and use thorough and frequent handwashing.

  • What financial and community supports exist?

    To learn more about the wide range of financial support measures currently being implemented by the federal, provincial and territorial governments to best support Canadian communities, businesses, families and individuals who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit:

    In addition to supports being introduced as a result of COVID-19, you may also want to learn more about previously existing government and community supports.

    Specifically, to learn more about disability benefits programs offered at federal, provincial, and territorial levels of government, please visit the Government of Canada’s Disability Benefits site.

    To learn more about community resources available in your specific community, please visit Canada 211, Canada’s primary source of information on government and community-based health and social services, at, or call 2-1-1 from your phone (where service is available).

  • Where can I get more information?

    Health Canada: Information for Canadians
    Canadian Rheumatology Association: Statement on COVID-19  
    EULAR (European League Against Rheumatism): Guidance for patients with musculoskeletal disorders 
    ACR (American College of Rheumatology): Message about COVID-19
    Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance: A collection of information resources for people with arthritis
    Arthritis Consumer Experts: A collection of information resources for people with arthritis
    Canadian Pharmacists Association: COVID-19 information 

    For information about specific provinces/territories:

    British Columbia
    Nova Scotia
    Newfoundland and Labrador
    New Brunswick
    Prince Edward Island
    Northwest Territories

  • Our offices and events

    To minimize the spread of the virus, many Arthritis Society staff are currently working remotely.

    Similarly, we have cancelled all in-person workshops and events until further notice. We hope to see you again soon.

    In Ontario, our Arthritis Rehabilitation and Education Program (AREP) is continuing to run virtual care and education programs. If you live in Ontario, you can access more information on the AREP webpage.

Need to reach us?

We are actively monitoring and responding to our email, phone messages and social media.
Email us at
Call us at 1-800-321-1433.

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We are all in this together. Take good care and let’s stay connected.

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