Covid: What we know so far about vaccine effectiveness among immunosuppressed people

Tom Clarke

Former Science Editor

ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke reports on how the Covid vaccines affect immunosuppressed people

The good news, if there can be any when it comes to the never ending Covid-crisis, is that around 60% of people with weakened immune systems, still show a robust immune response to vaccination.

For the remaining 40%, this latest study finds booster vaccines are likely to be needed to give them better protection from a Covid-19 infection.

The OCTAVE study is the largest of its kind to look at how well protected people with compromised immune systems are following Covid vaccination.

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine being adminstered in London. Credit: PA Media

It’s only preliminary data but gives an early indication of which types of people are likely to have received the least protection from the vaccine.

The study has yet to look at how well participants were protected from severe Covid disease by vaccination. The results relate to the levels of antibodies and T-cells found in their blood.

The results so far are from 600 participants including those with cancer, kidney and liver disease, arthritis and other autoimmune diseases for which the illnesses themselves, or the treatments for them, leave the immune system weakened.

“While 40% of these clinically at-risk patent groups were found to have a low or undetectable immune response after a double dose of the vaccine, we are encouraged that this figure isn’t higher,” said Prof Iain McInnes of the University of Glasgow who co-lead the study.

It sound 87% of patients with a rare autoimmune disease called ANCA-Associated Vasculitis showed the lowest antibody response compared to healthy individuals.

Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines Credit: PA Media

Most likely due to immunosuppressant drug Rituximab used to treat the illness.

Around half of people being treated for inflammatory arthritis had a weakened immune response as well as those receiving kidney dialysis.

The picture for cancer patients was more complicated with only around 10% of those with solid tumours like breast cancer having lower antibody levels.

Whereas those with blood cancers it was around a third — especially those receiving bone marrow transplants.

For the 40% with poor antibody repossess it wasn’t all bad news.

Everyone in the study who had been fully vaccinated produced a similar response in the T-Cells — another crucial arm of the immune system for fighting Covid.

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This shows that even in the most immune compromised patients, the vaccines are inducing a response. This suggests booster jabs should improve outcomes.

On Tuesday, the researchers announced a new follow-up trial called OCTAVE Duo that will offer double-jabbed participants a third vaccine boost of either the Pfizer, Moderna or Novavax vaccine.

The researchers want to investigate whether giving a different vaccine to the initial jab a patient received gives the immune system more of a boost.