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Medicine Matters rheumatology

September 16, 2021: Research from the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance evaluated the experience of COVID-19 vaccination among 2860 RMD patients. As reported in RMD Open, 81.9% of patients reported communicating with healthcare providers about vaccination, of whom 88.2% were satisfied with the communication and 95.6% said vaccination was recommended. The study authors conclude that "[c]linicians should maintain awareness of changing guidelines as further data become available to provide continued communication and patient counselling regarding risks and benefits of vaccination."

June 23, 2021: Study findings published in The Lancet Rheumatology showed that COVID-19 vaccines are well tolerated in people with autoimmune diseases, which the researchers say "might reassure patients who remain hesitant about COVID-19 vaccinations." Laura Boekel (Amsterdam Rheumatology and Immunology Center, the Netherlands) and team's questionnaire study included 505 patients with autoimmune diseases and 203 healthy controls, and these groups had a similar risk for adverse events on multivariable analysis.

June 8, 2021The authors of a study presented at the EULAR 2021 Virtual Congress aimed to address vaccine hesitancy in RMD patients using an educational video focused on vaccine safety that was delivered on mobile phones. Lavanya Rajagopala (The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, UK) reported that 52% of 664 individuals said they were unsure about vaccine safety prior to watching the video, but 77% said they would be more likely to have a COVID-19 vaccine after watching the video.

March 31, 2021: Caoilfhionn Connolly (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA) and team reported the findings of a study evaluating COVID-19 vaccine safety in RMD patients. As outlined in a letter to the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, they found that local and systemic adverse events in RMD patients following receipt of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine were consistent with those seen in the clinical trial populations. The team says that their “reassuring” findings may help to address concerns regarding vaccine hesitancy.

March 1, 2021: A European survey study found that 87% of 1505 adults with rheumatic, autoimmune, and autoinflammatory conditions said they would have the COVID-19 vaccine, while 11% were unsure and 2% said they did not intend to have the vaccine when offered. As outlined in a letter to Rheumatology, 51% of respondents who answered a question about reasons for not having the COVID-19 vaccine said that a lack of information was a factor, including concerns about potential medication contraindications, adverse events, and suitability of the vaccine for people with autoimmune conditions. The authors note that only “a very small minority” of respondents were against vaccination due to conspiracy theories. Richard Beesley (Juvenile Arthritis Research, Tonbridge, UK) and co-authors therefore recommend that “[c]lear, concise and accessible information is likely to increase vaccination uptake and reduce direct calls to rheumatology centres.”

In accordance with these findings, two studies published in The Lancet Rheumatology found that RMD patients’ willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine improved if their physician recommended vaccination. The first found that 69% of 515 patients from the Netherlands who were initially uncertain about whether they would accept a vaccine and 31% of 118 who were unwilling said they would change their minds following advice from their physician. Similarly, the second study of 1266 patients found that willingness to be vaccinated increased from 54.2% to 62.8% when recommended by a physician, with specialists (eg, rheumatologists and internists) the most trusted healthcare provider regarding vaccination recommendations. These findings led the researchers to conclude that rheumatologists have a “crucial and timely role” in improving vaccination uptake.