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EULAR updates vaccination recommendations for autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic disease patients



Vaccination status should be reviewed annually for patients with autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases, according to updated recommendations from the European League Against Rheumatism.

Vaccine syringe luiscar/Thinkstock

Patients with autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases (AIIRD) are at increased risk for infections, and vaccination has been shown to reduce risk by “potentially translating into a lower rate of hospital admissions due to infections, emergency room visits, and the rate of invasive infectious diseases,” wrote Victoria Furer, MD, of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, and members of the task force that updated the recommendations, which were published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

However, AIIRD patients often go unvaccinated because of a lack of awareness or concerns about vaccine safety and efficacy, they said (Ann Rheum Dis. 2019 Aug 14. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2019-215882).

The task force consisted of 21 experts, including patients, rheumatologists, immunologists, an infectious disease specialist, and health professionals in rheumatology representing eight countries. They evaluated data from four systematic literature reviews and developed nine recommendations based on six key principles.

“For each recommendation, the level of evidence for the incidence/prevalence of vaccine preventable infection in AIIRD, and efficacy/immunogenicity/safety of vaccination were stated, when available, followed by the strength of recommendation and the level of agreement,” the task force wrote.

These overarching principles start with an annual assessment of vaccination status by the AIIRD patient’s rheumatology team. Other principles include explanation of an individualized vaccination program to the patient as a foundation for joint decision-making, vaccinating patients during quiescent disease periods, vaccinating in advance of planned immunosuppression when possible, considering non-live vaccines for AIIRD patients also treated with systemic glucocorticoids and DMARDs, and considering live-attenuated vaccines with caution.

Several of the nine recommendations developed by the task force are modified from the previous recommendations issued in 2011. The task force made its recommendations with an eye toward optimizing individual risk stratification and avoiding “unnecessary” vaccination in AIIRD patients with low risk of infection as part of the update process. A notable change from the 2011 guidelines is the recommendation of both influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations for the majority of patients with AIIRD as opposed to all patients to emphasize the importance of individualized risk assessment, the task force noted.

The recommendations state that influenza vaccination and pneumococcal vaccination should be “strongly considered” for patients with AIIRD, and patients also should receive tetanus toxoid vaccination according to recommendations for the general population. However, clinicians should consider passive immunization for patients treated with B-cell depleting therapy, the task force wrote.

AIIRD patients at risk for hepatitis A and B should receive vaccinations for those diseases, with boosters or passive immunization if indicated, and high-risk patients may consider herpes zoster vaccination, according to the recommendations.

In addition, AIIRD patients – especially patients with systemic lupus erythematosus – should receive human papilloma virus vaccination according to recommendations for the general population, but AIIRD patients should avoid yellow fever vaccination, the task force stated. However, for AIIRD patients traveling to areas of yellow fever risk, “withholding immunosuppressive therapy to allow a safe vaccination or measuring serology in previously exposed patients may be considered.”

Finally, mothers treated with biologics during the second half of pregnancy should avoid live-attenuated vaccines for their newborns, and immunocompetent household members of AIIRD patients should be encouraged to follow national guidelines for routine vaccination with the exception of the oral polio vaccine, the task force concluded.

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