COVID-19 vaccines trigger antibody production in most people who have weakened immune systems, but a new study reveals that their responses are weaker than in healthy people.
“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,” study co-author Dr. Alfred Kim, an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis says.
His team studied 133 patients who were taking at least one immune-suppressing drug for illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis. They were compared with 53 healthy people.
For the study, blood samples were taken within two weeks before participants received their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and within three weeks after their second dose.
All patients kept taking their prescribed drugs, except for three whose medications were paused within a week of vaccination.
All of the healthy participants and 88.7% of participants with weakened immune systems produced antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 virus, researchers reported.
But antibody levels and the number of antibody-producing cells among those taking immunosuppressive medications were only about one-third those of the healthy participants.
Kim says patients on immunosuppressants have