Rheumatic Diseases and COVID-19 Vaccines: Safety and Tolerance Explained

2023-10-03 17:00:12

How do people with rheumatic diseases tolerate the corona vaccines? © Eugene Hoshiko/dpa

The German Society for Rheumatology provides information about study results on the effects of the corona vaccines.

Berlin – People with inflammatory or autoimmune rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMD) do not have to worry that they will tolerate the corona vaccines worse than others or that they will suffer a serious attack of illness as a result of the vaccination. As the German Society for Rheumatology reports, the safety profile does not differ from that of the general population. This was shown by the results of the European Covax study.

These are based on data from 5,121 people from 30 countries with various rheumatic diseases who have received at least one vaccination against the corona virus. 90 percent of the men and women recorded suffered from a chronic inflammatory rheumatic disease; their average age was 60.5 years.

Corona vaccination and rheumatism diseases: worry about side effects

The most common diagnoses were rheumatoid arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. 54 percent were taking a conventional anti-rheumatic drug for their disease, 42 percent were taking a biological drug and 35 percent were taking immunosuppressive drugs. 70 percent had received the mRNA vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer, eight percent that from Moderna and 17 percent the vector virus vaccine from Astrazeneca.

According to the German Society for Rheumatology, the most common vaccination reactions were short local and systemic reactions, such as redness or pain at the injection site. “One of the most common concerns of people with inflammatory RMDs is that the Covid vaccination will cause the underlying rheumatic disease to flare up,” says associate professor Anja Strangfeld from the Epidemiology program at the German Rheumatism Research Center in Berlin.

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Only a few rheumatism patients experienced a “usually mild” flare-up of illness after the corona vaccination

Strangfeld is an author of the Covax study. This shows a “usually mild and short-term illness attack” in 4.4 percent of patients. The attack was severe in only 0.6 percent of cases. More than 98 percent had previously continued their normal rheumatism medication unchanged.

The data collected was also used to examine the effectiveness of the vaccination, said Strangfeld. Only 0.7 percent of those vaccinated with inflammatory rheumatic diseases experienced a breakthrough infection. However, the data was recorded between February and July 2021, i.e. before Omicron appeared. (Pamela Dörhöfer)

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