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New COVAX Data: only 4.4% of people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases experienced a flare after COVID vax

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COVID-19 is the disease produced by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Since its discovery at the end of 2019, the virus has spread throughout the world, causing a global pandemic.

During the month of February 2021, EULAR, the European Alliance of Rheumatology Associations, launched COVAX — a physician-reported registry designed to collect information about COVID vaccination in people with inflammatory and non-inflammatory RMDs.

Individuals with RMDs who had received a COVID vaccine, regardless of whether or not they had experienced side effects, were asked to report as many cases as possible to EULAR.

Between February and July 2021, data on 5,121 persons with various kinds of RMD who had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccination was collected. Rheumatoid arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis, and psoriatic arthritis were the most frequent inflammatory RMDs.

Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis were the most frequent non-inflammatory RMDs. People with inflammatory RMDs were more likely than non-inflammatory RMDs to be taking a conventional synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (csDMARD – 54 percent ), 42 percent were taking biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs), and 35 percent were taking immunosuppressive medications for their RMDs (e.g., glucocorticoids, mycophenolate, azathioprine).

COVAX findings reveal that the majority of patients with inflammatory RMDs digest their COVID vaccine well, with no differences in safety profiles between the general population and those with non-inflammatory RMDs.

Some patients experienced short-lived side effects from the injection. One reason for asking additional safety questions in patients with inflammatory RMDs is concern that the vaccine would provoke a flare-up of the condition.

Only 4.4 percent of those who participated in this study suffered a flare after receiving their COVID vaccine, with only 0.6 percent of those experiencing a severe flare. The vast numbers of individuals (more than 98 percent) were able to continue taking their regular medications without any modifications.

Once persons with RMDs were fully vaccinated, the study discovered that they had a low rate of COVID-19 infections.

These are important data that will help patients with RMDs understand the safety and benefit-risk ratio of COVID immunization. The data will also be valuable in the creation of new and updated recommendations, according to study authors.

Source: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2021-221490

Image Credit: Getty

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