COVID-19 Vaccine Safe, Effective for People With IBD

Concerns were raised about the effectiveness of the vaccine in patients on immunosuppressive therapies.

COVID-19 vaccines administered to people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are safe and effectively protect them from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to new research.

Because patients with IBD are commonly treated with drugs that suppress the immune system, there have been concerns over whether these treatments might weaken their response to the vaccine, according to a Rutgers University news release1 on the study, published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics.2

“We wanted to demonstrate in a systematic way that the vaccines will safely protect our IBD patients from COVID-19,” said study author Abhishek Bhurwal, an advanced IBD fellow in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Our systematic review and meta-analysis confirmed that the vaccines are safe and work well in our patients.”

Around 3.1 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with IBD, according to the CDC, and Bhurwal said these numbers are growing. The disease, which includes Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis, causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

The review of all original articles describing the response of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in patients with IBD identified pooled seroconversion rates of 73.7% and 96.8% in patients with IBD after 1 and 2 doses of the vaccine, respectively.

“Vaccinated IBD patients showed high levels of antibody response, known as seroconversion, 2 weeks after the first vaccine, indicating a strong, positive response to the vaccine. The response was even higher after 2 doses, as compared with 1 dose,” Rutgers said.

Vaccinated patients did not experience a higher or lower rate of breakthrough infections than the control group in studies. However, the studies analyzed were likely not designed to allow for more subtle distinctions, according to the authors.

Those who were vaccinated experienced a low rate of adverse events, with the most common events—such as reactions at the injection site, headaches, backache, and joint pain—are also seen in the general population, the authors noted.

“Because members of the IBD population are immunocompromised, it was important to document that the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines work for them,” Bhurwal said. “With this analysis, we can say that 2 doses of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are safe and effective in the IBD population. But we need further studies regarding booster doses and COVID variants.”

References

  1. COVID-19 vaccine protects sufferers of inflammatory bowel disease. News release. Rutgers University. April 11, 2022. Accessed April 26, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/949415
  2. Bhurwal A, Mutneja H, Bansal V, et al. Effectiveness and safety of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in inflammatory bowel disease patients: A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. Published online March 30, 2022. doi:10.1111/apt.16913