Corona vaccinations protect most autoimmune patients

On Saturday 11 September, the national paper de Volkskrant published a large interview with Sanquin researchers Marieke van Ham, Theo Rispens, Taco Kuijpers (Sanquin/ Amsterdam UMC) and neurologist Filip Eftimov (Amsterdam UMC). They talk about hopeful news for patients with autoimmune diseases.

In the Netherlands alone, the results of the  nation-wide study Target-to-B (T2B) are relevant for hundreds of thousands of patients with rheumatism, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel diseases, among others. They often take medications to prevent their immune system from turning against their own body. The question was whether the corona vaccine would have sufficient effect on them because of their suppressed immune system. It is now clear that most immune suppressiva allow for proper immunity in these people.

The results follow from the T2B consortium of ZonMw. T2B investigates the overlap between different autoimmune diseases. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus quickly shifted to research into the effect of corona vaccination. The results of half of the patients, 1,500, are now known. On fixed time points, patients drew blood with a finger prick at home and sent it to Sanquin for antibody testing.

Only three immunosuppressive drugs have been shown to reduce the production of antibodies:  rituximab, ocrelizumab and fingolimod. Researcher Filip Eftimov says: "Patients who produce no or less antibodies after vaccination could still be protected (to a greater or lesser extent). Even in the absence of antibodies, another type of defence can offer protection against covid, but we still know too little about this."

Immunologist Marieke van Ham: "We received a lot of e-mails from people who had been locked up in their homes for a year and a half, out of fear of infection with the virus. In order to remove this uncertainty, we are now releasing the preliminary study results. We can now reassure patients. Most of them respond to the vaccines just like the rest of the population.'

The news was subsequently picked up by several news media, including the leading TV news broadcast.