Jean Liew, MD, MS, Discusses COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy in Patients with Rheumatic Disease

Results show that antimetabolites and BCDT medications were frequently represented in the group of vaccinated patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19.

In a late-breaking study presented at the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 2021 Convergence, investigators examined patients who had breakthrough infections of SARS-COV-2 after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and who were on immunomodulatory or immunosuppressive medications.

The results showed that the majority of fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough SARS-COV-2 infections were those who were on anti-metabolites or B cell depletion therapy (BCDT).

The study, "SARS-COV-2 Infections Among Vaccinated Individuals with Rheumatic Disease: Results from the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance Provider Registry", was presented by Jean Liew, MD, MS, Assistant Professor, Rheumatology, Boston University School of Medicine.

Investigators looked at 197 people who were fully or partially vaccinated. They focused on 87 people who were fully vaccinated. The population consisted mostly of white females from North America.

Of the 87 fully vaccinated patients, 22 were hospitalized for COVID-19. Most of them were taking B cell depletion therapy medications, like rituximab, or, antimetabolites, like mycophenolate. Liew explained that this wasn't surprising because it's in line with the laboratory-based studies she reviewed.

There was a range of ages among the 22 fully vaccinated patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19, Liew pointed out.

"Overall the results should be reassuring," Liew said, "that other medication classes that are immunomodulatory that we use for rheumatic disease patients, like TNF inhibitors and other biologics that target specific cytokines, they're not really represented in the people who were hospitalized after they were fully vaccinated."