The majority of people with ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV) and other forms of vasculitis plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and about one-third has already received at least one dose, a recent survey shows.
Yet, about 23% of respondents said they are unsure or not planning to receive a vaccine due to concerns about its efficacy and effects on their condition.
Vasculitis is characterized by inflammation of blood vessels, which may lead to organ and tissue damage if blood flow is compromised. In the case of ANCA vasculitis, this inflammation is caused by antibodies — called anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies (ANCAs) — that target immune neutrophils, and cause them to erroneously attack blood vessels.
As the immune system plays a fundamental role in vasculitis, patients are often prescribed immunosuppressive medications that dampen immune responses to alleviate symptoms and prevent flare-ups.
However, patients receiving these medications have an impaired immune system that is not as able to fight off invaders, meaning they are more likely to get infected and to develop more severe COVID-19 outcomes.
Also, since some immunosuppressive medications lower the number of immune B-cells — the cells that produce antibodies — patients may be less able to create an immune memory of infectious pathogens, which is the goal of vaccines.
Finally, concerns of the effectiveness and risks of COVID-19 vaccines are fueled by the low numbers of people with vasculitis that participated in vaccine trials.
To understand the needs and concerns of patients with vasculitis, the Vasculitis Foundation and the Vasculitis Patient-Powered Research Network conducted a survey to determine how patients felt about getting vaccinated for COVID-19.
Among the 1,701 patients who responded to the survey, a total of 1,088 had AAV, including 785 with granulomatosis with polyangiitis, 175 with eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis, and 128 with microscopic polyangiitis.
Additional diseases included Behcet’s disease, central nervous system vasculitis, cryoglobulinemic vasculitis, giant cell arteritis, Henoch-Schonlein purpura, polyarteritis nodosa, Takayasu’s arteritis, and urticarial vasculitis.
Results from the poll showed that most (77%) of survey participants said they were planning to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and that 30% had already received at least one dose.
Among the 23% who said they had doubts or were not planning to receive a vaccine shot, the most common reasons were concerns that the vaccine will worsen their disease symptoms, uneasiness about the newness of the vaccines and how well they have been investigated, and worries over the potential impact of the vaccine in patients undergoing immunosuppressive treatment.
Results from this survey will help understand where there is a need for more information and resources for vasculitis patients, the Vasculitis Foundation stated.