Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatology patients may experience flares after COVID-19 vaccine 

One in six people with rheumatic disease experience disease flares after getting their COVID-19 vaccine, new research shows.

The survey of over 1,100 patients with systemic rheumatic diseases (SRDs) attending a clinic in New York who had received at least one vaccine dose, 165 (14.9%) reported 202 disease flares.

Of the patients receiving either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, 654 (59.4%) had received both doses. Of these patients, 113 (17.0%) flared, 26 (23.0%) flared only after the first dose, 48 (42.5%) flared only after the second dose and 37 (32.7%) flared after both doses.

According to the authors of the letter published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases the information was reassuring and could help inform vaccine decision-making for patients.

“Although we did not collect laboratory studies, most SRD flares were described as ‘typical’, suggesting these symptoms are not vaccine’s adverse effects being misreported as disease flares,” they wrote.

“However when patients did flare, the majority of flares were reported as moderate to severe, with some lasting more than 3 weeks. Therefore, it will be important to follow these patients prospectively, as well as to perform analyses which incorporate potential confounders to identify predictors of SRD flares post-vaccination.”

Both the flare and non-flare groups used medications for prevention and treatment of vaccine side effects. However, it is unclear if patients in the study temporarily stopped treatments prior to receiving their vaccine.

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