Updates on COVID-19 vaccine research in patients with IBD

Over 141 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 - 49% of the total population in our country. Although we don’t precisely know vaccination rates among patients with IBD, we are pleased to see many patients getting vaccinated and encouraging their friends and family to do so as well.

As people begin thinking about returning to work and school, we recognize there is a need to better understand how patients  with IBD are responding to the COVID-19 vaccines. In fact, we continue to receive questions from patients about the safety of the vaccines as their effectiveness in triggering an appropriate immune response. 

There is ongoing research across the country that looks at IBD patients’ response to the vaccine, and we wanted to provide you with updates from those studies. The good news is that all three studies – ICARUS Study at Mount Sinai, CORALE-IBD at Cedars-Sinai, and PREVENT COVID at the University of North Carolina – have shown that IBD patients who received both doses of the mRNA vaccine mounted an immune response. Below you’ll find some preliminary findings from each study:

  • The ICARUS Study is a study of IBD patients who received the COVID-19 vaccine at Mount Sinai in New York. Initial findings from the study showed that all patients who received two doses of an mRNA vaccine mounted a robust immune response. Additionally, most of these patients were on anti-TNF biologic medications, and there were no safety or immune response issues.
  • The CORALE-IBD Study is a study of IBD patients both at Cedars-Sinai and across the country that seeks to understand the safety and effectiveness of vaccination, as well as perceptions around vaccination and overall well-being related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 2,000 adult patients have been enrolled in the study to date and enrollment is ongoing. 
    • Preliminary findings published by the CORALE researchers found that IBD patients on advanced therapies, such as biologics, were less likely to experience adverse events following receiving the vaccine. 
  • PREVENT COVID is a research study brought to you by IBD Partners to learn more about how well the COVID-19 vaccine works for IBD patients. PREVENT COVID has enrolled 3,300 pediatric (16-17-year-olds) and adult IBD patients to date, and enrollment of 12-17-year-old participants is ongoing. 
    • According to the study’s data, most patients have reported experiencing minimal side effects following vaccination, and 96% have positive titer levels after the second dose of a mRNA vaccine, meaning they mounted an detectible immune response.

The findings from all three studies shows that most medications for IBD do not substantially reduce response to COVID-19 vaccinations. This provides reassurance for patients who are worried about whether they are protected after receiving the vaccine. Furthermore, those who might still be hesitant to receive vaccination against COVID-19 due to fear of adverse events while on biologics should be reassured that overall symptoms after vaccination are not higher, and in fact may be reduced. I know that I feel reassured after reading these findings that my husband, who is a patient on a biologic, has likely mounted an immune response that will protect him from severe COVID-19. 

Here are a few things to remember from our previous blog post about vaccine response:

  • If you receive your full dose of the vaccine, you have increased protection from severe COVID and/or increased immunity to a future COVID-19 infection.
  • IBD patients should continue to enroll in research studies, like the ones mentioned above, to help us understand the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines in IBD patients.

With the Delta variant becoming more prevalent across the country, we encourage you to check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s and/or your local or state health department’s website to see guidance on what you can/cannot do once you are fully vaccinated. We will continue to provide updates about COVID-19 vaccine response among IBD patients as new information becomes available.