COVID-19 vaccine elicits antibody responses in nearly 9 out of 10 people taking immunosuppressants
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COVID-19 vaccination elicited antibody responses in nearly nine out of 10 people with weakened immune systems, although their responses were only about one-third as strong as those mounted by healthy people, according to a study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The study, published Aug. 30 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, looked at people taking immunosuppressive medications to treat chronic inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Since a minimum level of antibodies needed for protection hasn't been established, it has been difficult to say whether the levels achieved by people on immune suppressing drugs are high enough to protect them from severe COVID-19, the researchers said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended that people taking immunosuppressants receive a third dose of the vaccine to strengthen their immune responses.

Nonetheless, the discovery that COVID-19 vaccination elicits a response in people with compromised immune systems — even if not quite as strong a response — is encouraging news for a population that faces a high risk of serious illness.

Some of our patients have been hesitant about getting vaccinated, which is unfortunate because they are at increased risk of having more severe cases of COVID-19 if they happen to get infected, compared to those not taking immune suppressing drugs. Some of them are worried that vaccination might cause their disease to flare, but we haven't seen that happen. Others don't see the point of vaccination, because they think the drugs they're taking to treat their autoimmune condition will prevent them from producing an immune response to the vaccine. What we found here is that the vast majority of immunocompromised patients with autoimmune diseases are able to mount antibody responses following COVID-19 vaccination. There's clearly a benefit for this population." Alfred Kim, MD, PhD,…
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