Time since rituximab treatment is essential for developing a humoral response to COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in patients with rheumatic diseases

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OBJECTIVE: We aimed to investigate if patients with rheumatic diseases treated with rituximab raise a serological response towards the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines and to elucidate the influence of time since the last dose RTX before vaccination on this response.

METHODS: We identified and included 201 patients with rheumatic diseases followed at the out-patient clinic at the Department of Rheumatology, Aarhus University Hospital, who had been treated with RTX in the period 2017-2021 and who had finished their two-dose vaccination with a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. Total antibodies against SARS-CoV2 spike protein were measured on all patients and 44 blood donors as a reference.

RESULTS: We observed a time-dependent increase in antibody response as the interval from the last RTX treatment to vaccination increased. Only 17.3% of patients developed a detectable antibody response after receiving their vaccination 6 months or less after their previous RTX treatment. Positive antibody response increased to 66.7% in patients who had RTX 9-12 months before vaccination. All blood donors (100%) had detectable antibodies after vaccination.

CONCLUSION: Patients with rheumatic diseases treated with rituximab have a severely impaired serological response towards the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. Our data suggest that the current recommendations of a 6 months interval between rituximab treatment and vaccination should be revised.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of rheumatology
Pages (from-to)644-649
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

    Research areas

  • autoimmune diseases, rheumatic diseases, vaccination, vaccines

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