Vaccines are safe for kids with autoimmune diseases

Children with autoimmune diseases who are being treated with immunosuppressants can safely receive common childhood vaccines. — Immunise4Life

Both inactivated and live-attenuated vaccines generally produce an adequate immune response and are safe to use in children suffering with autoimmune diseases and being treated with all but the most potent immunosuppressants, according to a research review.

The team from the University of Manchester and the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust in the United Kingdom examined 37 original studies.

Twenty-five studies looked at the inactivated vaccines for influenza, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV), while 12 studied the live-attenuated vaccines for chickenpox (varicella zoster virus), measles, mumps and rubella.

The study, published in the journal Expert Reviews of Vaccines, had no external pharmaceutical industry funding.

Low-dose steroids and biologics were found to have no significant ill effects on the immune response of vaccines, the study concluded.

Co-author Dr Peter Arkwright, a senior lecturer from the university and consultant paediatric immunologist at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, says that the review should provide patients and clinicians with the confidence to ensure that these children receive their scheduled vaccinations.

The research team, which included Dr Ray Borrow, professor of vaccine-preventable diseases at the university, did find weak evidence of reduced efficacy of live vaccines in patients receiving high dose steroids and the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide.

Says Dr Arkwright: “Children with autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, lupus and juvenile arthritis often require treatment with immunosuppressants.

“Though the prevention of infection is crucial in these patients, there have long been ongoing concerns from clinicians about the efficacy and safety of vaccination, particularly live-attenuated viral vaccines.

“The evidence shows that both live and inactive vaccines are safe and effective, and so, we hope this study will address those concerns.

“Children treated with immunosuppressive drugs for autoimmune diseases should receive vaccines to protect them from vaccine-preventable diseases.

“However, we do argue that patients taking high-dose steroids and pulse cyclophosphamide should avoid live viral vaccines.”

Though the protection given by vaccines was adequate, antibody concentrations can be lower in patients taking immunosuppressants.

The team therefore note that patients on these drugs might require added booster vaccines in the future to ensure protection is maintained.

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