COVID-19 Vaccines: Lower Serologic Response in IBD

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Patients with immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs), such as inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatic conditions, have a reduced serologic response to a 2-dose vaccination regimen with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, according to the findings of a meta-analysis.

“These results suggest that IMID patients receiving mRNA vaccines should complete the vaccine series without delay and support the strategy of providing a third dose of the vaccine,” wrote study authors Atsushi Sakuraba, MD, of the University of Chicago Medicine, and colleagues in Gastroenterology.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns were raised about the susceptibility of patients with pre-existing conditions to infection with the novel coronavirus, the authors noted. Likewise, ongoing concerns have centered on the risk of worse COVID-19–related outcomes among patients with IMIDs who are treated with immunosuppressive agents.

Since the onset of the pandemic, several registries have been established to gauge the incidence and prognosis of COVID-19 in patients with IMID, including the Surveillance Epidemiology of Coronavirus Under Research Exclusion (SECURE)–Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) registry and the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance 75 (C19-GRA), which includes patients with rheumatic diseases.

Authorization of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines provided hope that the COVID-19 pandemic could soon come to an end given the overwhelming safety and efficacy data supporting the use of these vaccines for preventing hospitalization and death. Despite these data, little is known regarding the efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in patients with IMIDs and/or patients treated with immunosuppressive therapies, as these patients were excluded from the regulatory vaccine studies.

The study by Sakuraba and colleagues was a meta-analysis of 25 observational studies that reported serologic response rates to COVID-19 vaccination in a pooled cohort of 5,360 patients with IMIDs. Data regarding the reference population, medications, vaccination, and proportion of patients who achieved a serologic response were extracted from the observational studies and included in the meta-analysis.

In the analyzed studies, serologic response was evaluated separately after one or two vaccine doses. The researchers also examined the post-vaccine serologic response rate in patients with IMIDs versus controls without IMIDs.

A total of 23 studies used the BNT162b2 or mRNA-1273 vaccines, while 3 studies reported that 50% to 75.9% of patients received the AZD1222 vaccine. Some studies also included patients who received other COVID-19 vaccines, including CoronaVac, BBV152, and Ad26.COV2.S.

While 6 studies assessed serologic response to COVID-19 after just 1 dose, 20 studies assessed the post-vaccination serologic response following 2 doses. In most cases, researchers evaluated serologic response at 2 to 3 weeks after the first dose. After the second vaccine dose, most studies examined serologic response at 1 to 3 weeks.

The serologic response after 1 dose of the mRNA vaccines was 73.2% (95% CI 65.7-79.5). In a multivariate meta-regression analysis, the researchers found that a significantly greater proportion of patients with IMIDs who took anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) therapies had a lower serologic response rate (coefficient, –2.60; 95% CI –4.49 to –0.72; P =.0069). The investigators indicated this “likely contributed to the difference in serologic response rates and overall heterogeneity.”

Studies with patients with IBD reported a lower serologic response rate compared with studies that included patients with rheumatoid arthritis (49.2% vs. 65.0%, respectively), which the investigators explained was likely reflective of the increased use of anti-TNF agents in patients with IBD.

After 2 doses of the mRNA vaccines, the pooled serologic response was 83.4% (95% CI, 76.8%-88.4%). Multivariate meta-regression found that a significantly greater proportion of patients who took anti-CD20 treatments had a lower serologic response (coefficient, -6.08; 95% CI -9.40 to -2.76; P <.001). The investigators found that older age was significantly associated with lower serologic response after 2 doses (coefficient, -0.044; 95% CI -0.083 to -0.0050; P =.027).

For the non-mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, the rates of serologic response after 2 doses were 93.5% with AZD1222, 22.9% with CoronaVac, and 55.6% with BBV152.

Compared with controls without IMIDs, those with IMIDs were significantly less likely to achieve a serologic response following 2 mRNA vaccine doses (odds ratio, 0.086; 95% CI 0.036-0.206; P <.001). The investigators noted that there were not enough studies to examine and compare serologic response rates to adenoviral or inactivated vaccines between patients and controls.

In terms of limitations, the researchers wrote that additional studies examining humoral and cellular immunity to COVID-19 vaccines are needed to determine vaccine efficacy and durability in patients with IMIDs. Additionally, there is a need for studies with larger patient populations to determine serologic response to COVID-19 vaccines in the broader IMID population.

The researchers reported no funding for the study and no relevant conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry.

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