Side Effects & Rate of Flare-Ups in SLE Patients after COVID-19 Vaccination

September 5, 2023

A letter published in Lupus Science and Medicine announced the findings of a recent study on Covid vaccine safety in those living with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Researchers examined medical records and utilized a questionnaire to study the experiences of 237 Lupus patients after receiving COVID-19 vaccines. 

They found the rates of vaccine side effects reported by those with SLE were statistically similar to those in the general public. 8.9% reported injection site pain and/or redness, 14.8% had fever, hives, fatigue, and/or drowsiness, and 2.1% experienced mild renal dysfunction. No serious adverse effects were reported.

17.7% reported a disease flare-up in response to vaccination. Symptoms varied across participants, to include “complement decline, hair loss, facial erythema, proteinuria, and joint swelling and pain” (1). Changes in lab values for blood cell counts, liver function, kidney function, complement profiles, and antibody profiles were seen in 11.4% of patients. Researchers compared the rate of side effects and flare-ups between those who received only one vaccine dose and those who were fully vaccinated and found no differences between the groups.  

The study included 222 SLE patients who did not receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Within this group, about 42% cited concerns about vaccine safety, roughly 4% were worried about its efficacy, and approximately 13% were unwilling to be vaccinated. These findings support the need for further research into the safety and efficacy of Covid vaccination in this population. Researchers concluded that an established vaccination protocol for those with SLE would likely increase vaccination rates within this group.