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COVID-19 Vaccines Safe for Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

DANGEROUS side-effects are a much-deliberated topic relating to COVID-19. A study upon Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has revealed fewer complications in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) compared with the general population. Findings are particularly of note when it is considered that 70% of IBD patients reported concerns about the side-effect profile of the emerging vaccines as they begun roll-out.

This study evaluated 246 adult IBD patients in a nationwide COVID-19 vaccine registry; most experiencing similar mild side-effects to the general population lasting only a few days. Despite many expressing concerns about vaccines causing a ‘flare’ in condition, very seldom did IBD patients report severe side-effects of fatigue, fever, or headache; and only two experienced severe gastrointestinal effects. One area the study failed to advance knowledge is in this field, and where ongoing investigation has begun, is analysing both events to determine whether symptoms were from flares in IBD or reaction to the vaccine. Looking at results overall, researchers emphasised that gastrointestinal symptoms were short-lived and resolved on their own. Of the patients included in this study, 80% were on advanced therapies inhibiting immune response, potentially providing explanation for the lower number of side-effects, suggesting that other patients receiving similar immune-related therapy could experience the same protection. Co-author Dermot McGovern explained: “We believe that our results will be applicable to patients with other immune-mediated diseases as these drugs are widely used in dermatology, neurology, rheumatology and other disciplines.” He described the work that will collaborate with oncology and autoimmune research.

Co-author to the current study, Gil Melmed, put the results into perspective by stating: “What we’ve learned is that if you have IBD, the side-effects you’re likely to experience after a vaccine are no different than they would be for anyone else.” He expanded upon this by clarifying: “If you’re being treated with advanced therapies such as biologics, these side effects might be even milder. So, don’t let that be a reason that you’re not getting vaccinated.” In doing so, dismissing any doubts about the safety of these vaccines for patients with IBD.

These conclusions are likely to encourage uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine, providing reassurance to patients with existing preconceptions. Follow-up study is encouraged to assess the longitudinal profile of immune-system modulation after inoculation in this IBD treated cohort, exhibited through the 5-year extension of this study. The focus of their next steps is outlined by one of the researchers, Susan Cheng: “What we do not yet know is whether these vaccines build lasting immunity to COVID-19 in patients with immune-mediated disease.”