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24-02-2021 | COVID-19 | News

Rheumatologists have ‘crucial role’ in increasing COVID-19 vaccine uptake

Author: Claire Barnard


medwireNews: Two studies have evaluated the perspectives of people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) on COVID-19 vaccination, with both finding that a physician’s recommendation would improve patients’ willingness to be vaccinated.

The first study included 1727 patients from the Netherlands with RMDs (79%) or multiple sclerosis (21%) and 682 patient contacts without autoimmune disease (controls) who completed an online survey on COVID-19 vaccination in December 2020.

Laura Boekel (Amsterdam Rheumatology and Immunology Center, the Netherlands) and colleagues report that a similar proportion of patients and controls said they would be willing to receive a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, at 61% and 65%, respectively.

Overall, men were significantly more likely to say they were willing to be vaccinated than women (70 vs 58%), as were people older than 60 years versus younger participants (72 vs 55%). Concerns about adverse events (AEs) and lack of long-term research were cited as the most common reasons for refusing or questioning vaccination.

Among the patients with RMDs or multiple sclerosis, those who were unwilling to be vaccinated or unsure were more likely to have concerns about disease worsening than those who were willing to be vaccinated.

Almost a quarter (23%) of patients said that being advised by a physician to receive a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine would increase their willingness to get vaccinated. A total of 69% of 515 patients who were initially uncertain and 31% of 118 who were unwilling said they would change their minds following advice from their physician.

“[A]lthough data are still scarce, results of previous studies on vaccines against other viruses are reassuring,” and the possibility of AEs should not be a reason to recommend against SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in RMD patients, “especially because results of previous studies suggest that these patients can be at increased risk of severe COVID-19 disease,” say Boekel et al.

In the second study, Laurent Arnaud (Hôpitaux Universitaires de Strasbourg, France) and colleagues from the VAXICOV group surveyed 1266 RMD patients in December 2020, of whom 54.2% were willing to be vaccinated, 32.2% were unsure, and 13.6% were unwilling.

“[T]he proportion of patients […] willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was moderate in a generally at-risk population,” and the high rate of uncertainty “suggests that vaccine willingness could be increased using appropriate measures,” say the investigators.

They found that men were more likely to favor vaccination than women (71.2 vs 52.3%), and other significant predictors of willingness included older age, fear of SARS-CoV-2 infection, fear of severe COVID-19 disease, and previous vaccination for influenza or pneumococcal disease.

In accordance with the findings from Boekel and team, the VAXICOV researchers report that willingness to be vaccinated increased to 62.8% when recommended by a physician, and 67.5% of patients said that the healthcare provider they most trusted regarding vaccination recommendations was their specialist (eg, rheumatologist or internist).

“These data show the crucial and timely role of rheumatologists in vaccination uptake,” say Arnaud et al.

Both studies are published as comment articles in The Lancet Rheumatology.

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Ltd. © 2021 Springer Healthcare Ltd, part of the Springer Nature Group

24 February 2021: The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all healthcare professionals across the globe. Medicine Matters’ focus, in this difficult time, is the dissemination of the latest data to support you in your research and clinical practice, based on the scientific literature. We will update the information we provide on the site, as the data are published. However, please refer to your own professional and governmental guidelines for the latest guidance in your own country.

Lancet Rheumatol 2021; doi:10.1016/S2665-9913(21)00037-0
Lancet Rheumatol 2021; doi:10.1016/S2665-9913(21)00039-4