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COVID Vaccines and IBD

Dr. David T. Rubin, MD, Professor and Chief of the GI department at the University of Chicago wrote about the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and the implications for IBD patients. He kindly granted permission to repost his information here. If you would like to follow him, he maintains a blog:

“Development of multiple SARSCoV2 vaccines in the timeframe we have seen is a monumental scientific achievement. Necessity literally bred invention.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA vaccines. They use genetic material to trigger the body’s immune system to make antibodies against the spike proteins on the surface of SARSCoV2. They DO NOT contain actual viral particles and cannot cause infection.

Two doses are required with these vaccines. This is not uncommon for vaccines. The first exposes the immune system to the antigen, the second will activate memory cells, so your body will remember how to protect you if it gets exposed to SARSCoV2.

The reason for the cold temperature is to stabilize the messenger RNA so it maintains its structural integrity and then can do its job in your body. This is a well-described but surmountable logistical challenge.

The vaccines will come with temperature monitors so you will know if it has been kept at the right temperature during transport.

I am told that the US FDA is reviewing the Pfizer vaccine on December 10 and the Moderna on December 13. The CDC has committed to rapid review and updated recommendations within 24 hours of the FDA decisions.

First in line for the vaccine will be front line healthcare workers. Also, key will be residents of long-term care facilities. The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted today on this stratification.

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has previously outlined plans for vaccination. Technically, our IBD folks will be in the second tranche under the category of “use of immune weakening medicines”. But please read on...

Reminder that IBD patients have not been at increased risk for SARSCoV2 infection or COVID, and that the immune therapies used in IBD (except steroids) have not been associated with worse outcomes. There may even be some protection while on these meds.

Key questions:

Will IBD patients on immune therapies be less likely to develop immunity? Does it matter which therapy you are receiving whether you will develop immunity? MAYBE? READ ON

There is some data that shows older vaccines like for pneumococcal pneumonia (PSV-23) or influenza are less likely to result in immunity if patients are on combined anti-TNF and immunomodulators (azathioprine or 6-MP).

But it is variable! Some patients are more immunogenic than others. With vaccines, being immunogenic is a good thing (you are more likely to respond to the vaccine). With monoclonal antibodies, being immunogenic is not a good thing (you become "immune" to the therapy).

So, what about this messenger RNA vaccine? I’ve discussed a bit with experts here. Seems that anti-TNF (inflix, adalim) and anti-IL12/23 (ustekinumab) and possibly JAKinib (tofacitinib) will not impair immunity to these new vaccines.

Unclear whether cellular trafficking inhibitors (vedolizumab) may impair since they may affect lymphocytes ability to respond to the virus in the gut. Thiopurines (azathioprine, 6-MP) (which affect lymphocytes) may impair immunity.

5-ASAs (mesalamine), antibiotics will not affect immunity to the vaccine. But also important is the potency and “immunogenicity” of the vaccine itself, which may overcome any effect of these therapies and be effective anyway… MORE

Example is the modern herpes zoster (shingles) recombinant vaccine (Shingrix) which is quite potent and effective at inducing immunity even in patients who are receiving chemotherapy. If you want to read more, look at this great study:

I believe that these vaccines against SARSCoV2 will be appropriate and safe for our patients who are on immune therapies. I do not know that they will be AS effective at inducing immunity, but I suspect based on descriptions that they will come very close to being so.

There will be 3 years of follow up from the current vaccine trials. There will be post-marketing surveillance in the general population and the ACIP will adjust their recommendations. But it is clear that we need as a society to work together with good leadership to get this done.

I will get vaccinated. I will work hard to get my patients vaccinated. In the meantime, everyone please stay safe and be vigilant. Protect each other.



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