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
By ROSSELLA TERCATIN MAY 2, 2021
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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