Introduction: Vaccination represents a cornerstone in mastering the COVID-19 pandemic. Data on immunogenicity and safety of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines in patients with autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases (AIIRD) are limited.
Methods: A multicentre observational study evaluated the immunogenicity and safety of the two-dose regimen BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine in adult patients with AIIRD (n=686) compared with the general population (n=121). Serum IgG antibody levels against SARS-CoV-2 spike S1/S2 proteins were measured 2-6 weeks after the second vaccine dose. Seropositivity was defined as IgG ≥15 binding antibody units (BAU)/mL. Vaccination efficacy, safety, and disease activity were assessed within 6 weeks after the second vaccine dose.
Results: Following vaccination, the seropositivity rate and S1/S2 IgG levels were significantly lower among patients with AIIRD versus controls (86% (n=590) vs 100%, p<0.0001 and 132.9±91.7 vs 218.6±82.06 BAU/mL, p<0.0001, respectively). Risk factors for reduced immunogenicity included older age and treatment with glucocorticoids, rituximab, mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), and abatacept. Rituximab was the main cause of a seronegative response (39% seropositivity). There were no postvaccination symptomatic cases of COVID-19 among patients with AIIRD and one mild case in the control group. Major adverse events in patients with AIIRD included death (n=2) several weeks after the second vaccine dose, non-disseminated herpes zoster (n=6), uveitis (n=2), and pericarditis (n=1). Postvaccination disease activity remained stable in the majority of patients.
Conclusion: mRNA BNTb262 vaccine was immunogenic in the majority of patients with AIIRD, with an acceptable safety profile. Treatment with glucocorticoids, rituximab, MMF, and abatacept was associated with a significantly reduced BNT162b2-induced immunogenicity.
Keywords: Covid-19; biological therapy; methotrexate; rituximab; vaccination.
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