COVID-19 vaccination is safe in patients with rheumatic diseases

Patients with autoimmune rheumatic disorders are sometimes reluctant to receive vaccinations due to concerns about vaccine-related adverse effects and the onset of pre-existing rheumatic disease. A recent muti-center survey from southern India has reported promising results regarding the safety of ChAdOx1 nCov-19 (COVISHIELD) and BBV 152 (COVAXIN) in patients with rheumatic diseases.

The interview-based survey evaluated the patient characteristics, types of vaccines administered, their characteristics, and COVID-19 infection at 6 tertiary care hospitals involving 2092 patients with autoimmune rheumatic disorders (AIRDs).  Among the 1293 individuals (61.81%) who received vaccinations, 837 (64.73%) had undergone complete vaccination. Nearly 78% received the ChAdOx1 nCov-19 vaccination, and 22% had undergone the BBV 152 vaccination.

Fear of adverse effects was the main deterrent for receiving the vaccine (53%). The prevalence of breakthrough infections (n = 72) in both partially vaccinated (81%) and fully vaccinated (19.44%) groups were comparable. Myalgia (25%), fever (20%), and pain at the injection site (19%) were the most frequent side effects reported by the vaccine recipients. None of the side effects necessitated hospitalization, as they were all moderate and self-limiting. Some patients experienced disease flare-ups after receiving the immunization, but majority of these cases were small and were treated conservatively.

The present study by Mohanasundaram and co-authors provided real-world data corroborating the safety and tolerability of COVID vaccines in immunocompromised individuals, as indicated by the low occurrence of breakthrough infections.

A detailed news article on the link between COVID-19 vaccines and arthritis flare is available in our ‘News and Views’ section. A webinar on ‘Immune Response to COVID19 infection’ by Dr. Florian Krammer discussing antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination is available in our webinar section.

Reference: Mohanasundaram K, Santhanam S, Natarajan R, Murugesan H, Nambi T, Chilikuri B, Nallasivan S. Covid-19 vaccination in autoimmune rheumatic diseases: A multi-center survey from southern India. Int J Rheum Dis. 2022 Jun 30.