Haemodialysis patients show a highly diminished antibody response after COVID-19 mRNA vaccination compared with healthy controls

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2021 Aug 27;36(9):1709-1716. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfab179.


Background: Haemodialysis (HD) patients are exposed to a high risk due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. They are prone to acquiring the infection and are threatened by high mortality rates in case of infection. However, HD patients were not included in the efficacy trials of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. Such efficacy data would have been critical because HD patients show decreased responses against various other vaccines and this could translate to the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines as well.

Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study that contained a group of 81 HD patients and 80 healthy controls. All of them had been vaccinated with the BioNTech/Pfizer mRNA vaccine (two doses, as per the manufacturer's recommendation). The anti-SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) antibody response was measured for all participants 21 days after the second dose. The groups were compared using univariate quantile regressions and a multivariate analysis. The adverse events (AEs) of the vaccination were assessed via a questionnaire. Finally, a correlation between the HBs-antibody response and the SARS-CoV-2 antibody response in the HD patients was established.

Results: The HD patients had significantly lower anti-SARS-CoV-2 S antibody titres than the control patients 21 days after vaccination (median was 171 U/mL for dialysis patients and 2500 U/mL for the controls). Further, the HD group presented fewer AEs than the control group. No correlation was found between the antibody response to previous Hepatitis B vaccination and that of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

Conclusions: HD patients present highly diminished SARS-CoV-2 S antibody titres compared with a cohort of controls. Therefore, they could be much less protected by SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccinations than expected. Further studies to test alternative vaccination schemes should be considered.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; antibodies; dialysis; vaccination.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antibody Formation*
  • COVID-19 Vaccines* / immunology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Immunogenicity, Vaccine*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / immunology
  • mRNA Vaccines


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Synthetic