Important news for people with lupus as COVID-19 vaccines are on everyone’s minds. The foremost authority in rheumatologic diseases, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) recently issued the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Guidance. Developed by a panel of rheumatologists, specialists in infectious disease and public health experts, the Guidance aims to help healthcare providers make decisions with their patients. Authors note that this Guidance is a “living” document that will evolve over time as additional vaccines gain Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The key takeaways: The Guidance recommends that people who have autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory and musculoskeletal diseases be vaccinated because the benefit of protection against COVID-19 outweighs potential risk. It also recommends taking either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — the two vaccines that ACR’s panel have reviewed as of February 8, 2021 – and both based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technologies. Most importantly, they recommend working closely with your physician who can apply the Guidance recommendations to you, knowing your medical situation and history.
To provide specific information about the use of COVID-19 vaccines among people with lupus, the Lupus Research Alliance (LRA) convened a meeting last fall attended by experts in vaccinology, immunology, and rheumatology and representatives from the LRA Research Committee, the ACR and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). While the experts did not identify any a priori considerations making certain SARS-CoV-2 vaccines unsuitable for lupus patients, they also emphasized the lack of knowledge about the effect of the new vaccine technologies in lupus patients both from an immunological and clinical perspective. Importantly, the group underscored the urgent need to generate clinical and research data on SARS-CoV-2 vaccine responses in lupus patients. Following up on these recommendations, the Lupus Research Alliance and its affiliate Lupus Therapeutics, engaged key investigators to design and conduct such a study.
Because many of the COVID-19 vaccines in use and those under development utilize new technologies, assessing how the new vaccine platforms might impact people with lupus is very important and timely. Therefore, the LRA is investing $3 million in a vaccine research project to evaluate the immune responses to different COVID-19 vaccines among people with lupus as they are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization.
We will keep you posted with updates. Meanwhile, the LRA echoes the recommendations from ACR for patients to consult with their physicians in making the decision about COVID-19 vaccination.