Vaccines and vaccinations for rheumatic diseases 4.4/5 (5)

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Rheumatic disease vaccines prevent infections


Vaccines strengthen the immune system against infections. In rheumatic diseases, there is often an increased risk of infections and thus a special need for vaccines. Usually, the benefit of vaccines in rheumatic diseases is clearly greater than the disadvantage and sometimes life-saving. However, in some cases vaccines should be avoided or postponed. This is described under “live vaccines”Below and in the package leaflet for each preparation.

It is speculated that vaccines may cause worsening rheumatic disease and that additives can trigger rheumatic disease (ASIA syndrome). In practice, this is rarely suspected, and the benefits of vaccines are much greater than any risk.

In households where one or more people use immunosuppressive drugs, everyone should consider getting vaccinated with the annual flu vaccine to prevent the infection from infecting others.

Mechanism of action

Vaccines contain attenuated or dead viruses / bacteria / microbes or parts of them that are similar to pathogenic bacteria, viruses or other microbes. This causes the immune system to react and become stronger, but without an infection.

Call for vaccination. Rikshospitalet.

Two important vaccines

influenza vaccine (given annually) and pneumococcal vaccine (Vaccine against pneumonia taken every 7-10 years) are "dead vaccines". (Exception: Flu vaccine like nasal spray, Fluenz Tetra, is "live vaccine"). Both vaccines reduce the risk of life-threatening pneumonia. The vaccines are recommended, inter alia, by:

  • Age over 65 years
  • A weakened immune system (Rheumatic disease treated with immunosuppressive drugs)
  • Chronic lung or heart disease
  • Several rheumatic diseases:

Otherwise, common vaccine recommendations should also be followed (The Norwegian Institute of Public Health):

“Live” vaccines

Vaccines with weakened (but live) microbes can be problematic for people who have immunosuppressive drugs or weak immune system for other reasons.

Effect of "live" vaccines

  • The vaccines should activate the immune system without causing illness, but still so that one becomes immune

Risk of "live" vaccines

  • Weakened microbes can cause unwanted signs of infection by reduced immune system (immunosuppressive drugs).
  • Vaccines contain additives (adjuvants) that enhance the effect. Some can react to these additives. The extent of such reactions is discussed (ASIA syndrome) and must be upheld against the great benefit of vaccines

Examples of "live" vaccines

Conditions using “living " vaccines most often not to be used

Vaccine against herpes zoster (shingles) is increasingly used before immunosuppressive therapy is started among people over 50 years. The vaccine consists of attenuated "live" viruses (please see below) and should not be given when immunosuppressive therapy has already started.

Children with rheumatic disease and immunosuppressive treatment is often discouraged MMR vaccine (against measles, mumps and rubella). They should be vaccinated as vaccinated when treatment is completed.

Latency between live vaccines and treatment

If vaccination with "live" vaccines is appropriate, it should be done 4 weeks or more before immunosuppressive therapy begins.

After completion of immunosuppressive therapy, one should wait 3 months before vaccination with “live vaccines” (exclude: rituximab 6 months, Prednisolone 1 month)

“Dead/killed” vaccine/inactivated vacccines

These contain no living organisms and are safe also for immunocompromised people. However, some immunodeficiencies and some drugs (including MabThera / Rixathon) may reduce vaccine efficacy.

Examples of dead / killed vaccines / inactivated vaccines

Influenza vaccine (except influenza vaccine as a nasal spray (live vaccine) / Fluenz Tetra

  • Recommended (Norwegian Medicines Agency in Norway) to
    • All over the age of 65
    • Residents at nursing and nursing homes
    • Pregnant after 12. gestation
    • Children and adults with chronic diseases where flu make up a serious health risk
    • Healthcare staff with patient contact

Pneumococcal vaccine (against pneumonia)

Polio vaccine (for injection / syringe)

Impaired vaccine effect?

Concomitant use of immunosuppressive drugs may reduce vaccine effect, but is dependent on the cause of impaired immune system.

  • Usually, the vaccine works in people who are kidney transplanted, cancer patients who have not received chemotherapy for a few weeks and HIV patients with moderately reduced number of T cells
  • Patients treated with moderate steroid doses (Prednisolone less than 20mg / day) also respond satisfactorily to vaccines
  • More powerful immunosuppressive drugs may reduce vaccine response somewhat, but usually the vaccines still work sufficiently
    • Methotrexate seems to reduce vaccine efficacy more than TNF inhibitors and tocilizumab (RoActemra)
    • Rituximab (MabThera / Rixarthon) reduces vaccine efficacy if vaccination occurs less than 6 months after MabThera treatment
  • Ideally, one should be vaccinated at least 3-4 weeks before starting treatment with rituximab
  • After rituximab infusion, one should wait, if possible, 6 months of vaccination
  • There is little knowledge about vaccine efficacy in people with innate immune defects

child Vaccination

Vaccines during pregnancy

Some vaccines should not be given to pregnant women because the vaccines can harm the fetus. For all vaccines, risk and necessity must be assessed for each case.

“Live” vaccines (attenuated viruses or bacterial vaccines) should not be given during pregnancy

  • Vaccines against rubella, mumps and measles (MMR) should not be given. Pregnancy should be avoided within three months of vaccination

"Dead" vaccines (dead virus or bacteria) are generally harmless

  • Vaccines against polio, tetanus and diphtheria are dead vaccines and can be used
  • Influenza vaccine is the "dead vaccine" and is recommended in the last 2 / XNUM of pregnancy (in the second and third trimesters) if the risk of infection is present. Influenza vaccine is recommended for pregnant women as they become more easily infected (impaired immune system during pregnancy) and the flu can lead to pregnancy complications. The vaccine can also protect the baby the first time after birth

Specific immunoglobulin can be given, but the effect is uncertain

Because pregnant women use certain immunosuppressive drugs (applies to all biological drugs) after the 22th week of pregnancy, it may be appropriate that the child does not receive live vaccines (most commonly applies vaccine against Rota virus) first 6 months after birth. Any BCG vaccine is postponed. If in doubt can Public Health or NKSR be contacted.

Breastfeeding and vaccines

Vaccines can be used by nursing mothers

More about pregnancy in rheumatic disease here

Treatment with Immunoglobulins

Immunoglobulins can be given by weakened immune system after infection and preventative in some cases. There are specific immunoglobulins (Hepatitis B, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Rabies). Normal IgG is given by Hepatitis A and Measles.


Recommendations about vaccines (external links)

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