Flares in autoimmune rheumatic diseases in the post-COVID-19 vaccination period-a cross-sequential study based on COVAD surveys.

Jagtap, K., R. Naveen, J. Day, P. Sen, B. Vaidya, A. Nune, E. Nikiphorou, A. L. Tan, V. Agarwal, S. Saha, et al., "Flares in autoimmune rheumatic diseases in the post-COVID-19 vaccination period-a cross-sequential study based on COVAD surveys.", Rheumatology (Oxford, England), vol. 62, issue 12, pp. 3838-3848, 2023.


OBJECTIVE: Flares of autoimmune rheumatic diseases (AIRDs) following COVID-19 vaccination are a particular concern in vaccine-hesitant individuals. Therefore, we investigated the incidence, predictors and patterns of flares following vaccination in individuals living with AIRDs, using global COVID-19 Vaccination in Autoimmune Diseases (COVAD) surveys.

METHODS: The COVAD surveys were used to extract data on flare demographics, comorbidities, COVID-19 history, and vaccination details for patients with AIRDs. Flares following vaccination were identified as patient-reported (a), increased immunosuppression (b), clinical exacerbations (c) and worsening of PROMIS scores (d). We studied flare characteristics and used regression models to differentiate flares among various AIRDs.

RESULTS: Of 15 165 total responses, the incidence of flares in 3453 patients with AIRDs was 11.3%, 14.8%, 9.5% and 26.7% by definitions a-d, respectively. There was moderate agreement between patient-reported and immunosuppression-defined flares (K = 0.403, P = 0.022). Arthritis (61.6%) and fatigue (58.8%) were the most commonly reported symptoms. Self-reported flares were associated with higher comorbidities (P = 0.013), mental health disorders (MHDs) (P < 0.001) and autoimmune disease multimorbidity (AIDm) (P < 0.001).In regression analysis, the presence of AIDm [odds ratio (OR) = 1.4; 95% CI: 1.1, 1.7; P = 0.003), or a MHD (OR = 1.7; 95% CI: 1.1, 2.6; P = 0.007), or being a Moderna vaccine recipient (OR = 1.5; 95% CI: 1.09, 2.2; P = 0.014) were predictors of flares. Use of MMF (OR = 0.5; 95% CI: 0.3, 0.8; P = 0.009) and glucocorticoids (OR = 0.6; 95% CI: 0.5, 0.8; P = 0.003) were protective.A higher frequency of patients with AIRDs reported overall active disease post-vaccination compared with before vaccination (OR = 1.3; 95% CI: 1.1, 1.5; P < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: Flares occur in nearly 1 in 10 individuals with AIRDs after COVID vaccination; people with comorbidities (especially AIDm), MHDs and those receiving the Moderna vaccine are particularly vulnerable. Future avenues include exploring flare profiles and optimizing vaccine strategies for this group.