~89% of Those with Chronic Inflammatory Conditions Produce Antibodies Following Vaccination, Despite Immunosuppressant Usage

September 2, 2021

The Washington University School of Medicine is conducting a study called COVaRiPAD (COVID-19 Vaccine Responses in Patients with Autoimmune Disease). The team just published research looking at the effect of immunosuppression on the efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. They found that 88.7% of patients with chronic inflammatory conditions* (CID), including rheumatoid arthritis (28.5%), Crohn’s disease (16.5%), spondyloarthritis (15%), ulcerative colitis (13.5%), systemic lupus erythematosus (11.3%), multiple sclerosis (6.8%), and sjögrens syndrome (6%), produced detectable antibodies in response to the vaccine.

Researchers found that immune responses varied depending on the medication being taken, which included glucocorticoids, antimetabolites, tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFis), B-cell depleting therapy (BCDT), and Janus kinase inhibitors (JAKis). All CID participants continued use of their immunosuppressive medications during the study per their treating physician, except for 3 who held methotrexate (antimetabolite) within 1 week of immunization. Those taking BCDT (60%) and glucocorticoids (65%) had absent or numerically lower antibody levels after both vaccinations, while the other immunosuppressives did not generate much lower antibody levels when compared to those not taking the drugs.

It should be noted that the antibody levels in CID participants were one-third of the levels seen in the healthy controls. The researchers highlighted the difficulty of determining whether the levels achieved by those on immune-suppressing drugs are high enough to protect them from severe COVID-19 given that a minimum level of antibodies required for protection against COVID-19 has yet to be established. Nonetheless, evidence supporting that vaccination does elicit a response in those with compromised immune systems is still encouraging for a population that has a high risk of serious illness.

 * Those with acquired or inherited immunocompromised conditions and those using systemic immunosuppression were excluded.