Immunization in Patients with Rheumatic Diseases: A Practical Guide for General Practitioners OE01-OE04
Dr. Piyush Ranjan,
Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi -110029, India.
Patients with rheumatic diseases are susceptible to various infections throughout the course of the disease. The increased risk of infections can be attributed partly to the aberrant immune system and partly to the effect of immunosuppressive drugs used in the treatment of the disease. Immunization appears to be an excellent strategy to prevent infections in such patients. However, the effect of vaccines in these patients is modified due to disease per se and/or immunosuppressive drugs. Biological agents, that frequently increase the susceptibility to infections, are now being initiated earlier in the course of the disease and also for new indications. Thus, concerns regarding safety, efficacy and potential adverse effects of vaccines in these patients are more complex than in any other immunosuppressive conditions. Different patients show different amount of immunosuppression in response to disease modifying drugs. Besides, there is lack of adequately powered randomised controlled trials investigating the efficacy of a vaccine in terms of actual prevention of the disease. Pneumococcal and influenza vaccines are the most studied vaccines and they are strongly recommended in rheumatic patients. In general, live vaccines should be avoided among patients receiving high doses of immunosuppressive drugs. However, they may be given to patients receiving low dose steroids and methotrexate. Non-live vaccines may be administered as per the recommendations of national guidelines. There is necessity to increase awareness among patients and doctors towards promoting the appropriate and judicious use of vaccines in the patients with rheumatic diseases.