Vaccinations and Risk of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Autoimmun Rev. 2017 Jul;16(7):756-765. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2017.05.012. Epub 2017 May 5.


Background: In the past several years, more and more studies proposed some concerns on the possibly increased risk of autoimmune diseases in individuals receiving vaccinations, but published studies on the associations of vaccinations with risks of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) reported conflicting findings. A systematic review and meta-analysis was carried out to comprehensively evaluate the relationship between vaccinations and risk of SLE and RA.

Methods: Pubmed, Web of Science and Embase were searched for observational studies assessing the associations of vaccinations with risks of RA and SLE. Two authors independently extracted data from those eligible studies. The quality of eligible studies was assessed by using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS). The pooled relative risk (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) was used to measure the risk of RA and SLE associated with vaccinations, and was calculated through random-effect meta-analysis.

Results: Sixteen observational studies were finally considered eligible, including 12 studies on the association between vaccinations and SLE risk and 13 studies on the association between vaccinations and RA risk. The pooled findings suggested that vaccinations significantly increased risk of SLE (RR=1.50; 95%CI 1.05-2.12, P=0.02). In addition, there was an obvious association between vaccinations and increased risk of RA (RR=1.32; 95%CI 1.09-1.60, P=0.004). Meta-analysis of studies reporting outcomes of short vaccinated time also suggested that vaccinations could significantly increase risk of SLE (RR=1.93; 95%CI 1.07-3.48, P=0.028) and RA (RR=1.48; 95%CI 1.08-2.03, P=0.015). Sensitivity analyses in studies with low risk of bias also found obvious associations of vaccinations with increased risk of RA and SLE.

Conclusion: This study suggests that vaccinations are related to increased risks of SLE and RA. More and larger observational studies are needed to further verify the findings above and to assess the associations of vaccinations with other rheumatic diseases.

Keywords: Meta-analysis; Rheumatoid arthritis; Risk factor; Systemic lupus erythematosus; Vaccinations.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology*
  • Risk
  • Vaccination / adverse effects*