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Coronavirus vaccine effective on autoimmune disease patients, study finds

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Patients were selected to participate in the study on the day they received their first vaccine shot and they were invited to come back between two to four weeks after the second dose


The coronavirus vaccine is effective in autoimmune disease patients, a new Israeli study has shown.

The study was conducted by researchers at Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov), Hadassah Medical Center and Carmel Medical Center and is in the process of being published in an academic journal.

“Our idea was to evaluate the efficacy, immunogenicity and safety of the Pfizer vaccine on patients who suffer from autoimmune diseases,” Prof. Ori Elkayam, Director of The Institute of Rheumatology at Ichilov said. “At the beginning, we really didn’t have any information about this group of patients, since the original Pfizer study didn’t include them.”

Autoimmune diseases are characterized by a condition in which the immune system reacts against the body’s own normal components, producing disease or functional changes. Concerning COVID-19, Elkayam explained that most patients do not seem at a higher risk compared to the general population, with some exceptions.

Patients were selected to participate in the study on the day they received their first vaccine shot and they were invited to come back between two to four weeks after the second dose in order to evaluate its efficacy, side effects and whether it had a negative impact on the disease.

“There are two concerns in vaccinating patients with autoimmune diseases,” Elkayam said. “The first is that they may not respond to the vaccine because they are immuno-suppressed while the second one is about how the vaccine influences the disease associated with them.”

Some 686 patients participated in the study, as well as 120 individuals to act as a control group.

“For most of the participants, the disease remained stable. There was a very small proportion who registered some new activity, but it was very small and we cannot say whether it was caused by the vaccine,” the professor explained.

In the control group, 100% of vaccinated individuals developed antibodies, while among those who presented autoimmune diseases, the rate was about 85%.

“However, it was important to look into who were the patients who did not develop antibodies,” Elkayam pointed out.

The lack of response appeared to be associated with patients undergoing a specific treatment using a specific drug, Rituximab. The problem did not seem to emerge with other common drugs and treatments.


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3 Replies
Bellaflowe profile image

Very interesting. This is why I’m glad I haven’t had Rituximab in the last 20 months! Although, I did have the AstraZeneca vaccine and I don’t know how different the results would be compared with the Pfizer study...

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lupus-support1Administrator in reply to Bellaflowe

The study highlighted Rituximab, which I had in November for SLE & Marginal Zone Lymphoma, a rare but indolent cancer, a complication of autoimmune diseases.

They don't know our autoimmune antibody response, which is why we need to be sensible & not take risks until we ie the medical/scientists know more.

Be well & keep safe!


Bellaflowe profile image
BellafloweVolunteer in reply to lupus-support1

I’m so sorry to hear you have cancer, Ros. I really hope the rituximab is helping. I wanted to continue my rituximab treatment, as I have been having infusions of it for over 6 years, but my specialist was concerned about lowering my immune system even more given the threat of COVID. So, the past year has been hellish with my symptoms. I have shielded for the best part of a year and I am extremely careful, as we all should be. It’s very tough and I’m lucky to have my parents living close by.In your case it definitely makes sense to have rituximab treatment. It is very much up to each patient and their specialist/s to weigh up the risks involved.

Keep safe and I’m sending you my best,