Fatih Taştekin1, Meltem Taşbakan2, Candan Çiçek3, Mehmet Soylu3, Figen Yargucu Zihni1

1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Ege University Faculty of Medicine, Izmir, Türkiye
2Department of Infectious Disease, Ege University Faculty of Medicine, Izmir, Türkiye
3Department of Microbiology, Ege University Faculty of Medicine, Izmir, Türkiye

Keywords: Antibody formation, CoronaVac vaccine, Coronavirus disease 2019 vaccines, BNT162 vaccine, rheumatic diseases.


Objectives: In this study, we report the immune response to the BNT162b2 vaccine and CoronaVac vaccine after a two-dose vaccination and the effects of conventional drugs, immunosuppressive drugs, and new-generation therapies on vaccine responses in patients with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs).

Patients and methods: This is a prospective observational study conducted with 94 patients (65 males, 29 females; mean age: 42.7±12.1 years; range, 19 to 69 years) between May 2021 and January 2022. The immunogenicity of the two-dose regimens of the BNT162b2 and CoronaVac vaccines in adult patients with RMD was analyzed according to disease and treatments. Serum immunoglobulin G antibody levels against SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) spike proteins were measured four weeks after the second dose of vaccines.

Results: Patients on regimens including mycophenolate, rituximab, and steroids were less likely to develop an antibody response (p=0.001, p=0.06, and p=0.001, respectively). Impairment of vaccine response by other conventional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs and by anti-tumor necrosis factor treatments was not shown. Younger participants appeared more likely to develop an antibody response. The CoronaVac vaccine was less likely to develop an antibody response compared to the BNT162b2 vaccine (p=0.002). Systemic lupus erythematosus and vasculitis had the lowest antibody titers compared to other RMDs.

Conclusion: Patients receiving mycophenolate mofetil, rituximab, and steroids should be warned about the risk of a suboptimal vaccine response. If possible, vaccination strategies should be changed, and the dose modification of drugs should be made during the vaccination. Further studies are required to determine the responses to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and optimization of vaccine response in patients with RMDs.

Citation: Taştekin F, Tasbakan M, Çiçek C, Soylu M, Yargucu Zihni F. Efficacy of coronavirus disease 2019 vaccines in patients with rheumatic diseases. Arch Rheumatol 2023;38(3):419-428.

Ethics Committee Approval

The study protocol was approved initially by the Ethics Committee of Ege University dated and numbered decision of 22/06/2021, 21-6.3/5 and Turkish Ministry of Health, Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency dated and numbered decision of 01.07.2021, E-85521274-000- 991053. The study was conducted in accordance with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki.

Author Contributions

All authors were involved in drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content, and all authors approved the final version to be submitted for publication.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declared no conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship and/or publication of this article.

Financial Disclosure

Supported by the scientific research projects coordination of the university where the study was conducted.

Data Sharing Statement

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.