Low Frequency of Disease Flare in Patients With Rheumatic Musculoskeletal Diseases Who Received SARS-CoV-2 mRNA Vaccine

Francesca Romana Spinelli; Ennio Giulio Favalli; Cristina Garufi; Martina Cornalba; Serena Colafrancesco; Fabrizio Conti; Roberto Caporali


Arthritis Res Ther. 2022;24(21) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Little is known about the safety of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in patients with rheumatic musculoskeletal disease (RMD). We evaluated the occurrence of adverse events following immunization (AEFI) in RMD patients and heathy subjects who received anti-SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine.

Methods: We performed a telephone interview collecting any adverse event (AE) following immunization (AEFI) that occurred in RMD patients and healthy controls after the two doses of mRNA vaccine including common local reactogenicity and systemic events (for example, fever, fatigue/malaise, joint and muscle pain). We also investigated the onset of new signs or symptoms of the RMD after the vaccination.

Results: We evaluated 126 patients with RMDs [105 females and 19 males, median age 51(IQR 17)] and 85 controls [62 females and 23 males, (median age 49 (20)]. Seventy patients (55.6%) were taking immunosuppressants, conventional synthetic (n=31, 43.3%) and/or biological [TNF inhibitors (n=49, 68.6%)], and 30 (23.8%) were taking hydroxychloroquine; treatment remained unchanged in 77% of patients. Eleven out of 126 patients and none of the 85 controls previously contracted COVID-19. The median follow-up from the completion of vaccination was 15 (3) weeks both in patients and controls. We reviewed 5 suspected cases confirming mild articular flares in 3 women (2.8) with inflammatory arthritis (2 psoriatic arthritis and 1 rheumatoid arthritis) while no disease reactivation was recorded in patients with connective tissue diseases; the incidence rate of RMD reactivation was 0.007 person/month. Multivariable logistic regression analysis showed similar frequencies of local and systemic AEFI in patients and controls with no effect of therapies or previous COVID-19. Local reaction—pain in the injection site—was the most frequently reported AEFI both in RMD and controls (71% and 75% of all the AEFI, respectively) after the first dose. Overall, up to 66% of patients experienced at least one AEFI at the second dose and up to 62% in the control group. Most of AEFI occurred within 2 days of vaccine administration. Two RMD patients developed pauci-symptomatic COVID-19 after the first dose of vaccine.

Conclusion: The low incidence rate of disease reactivation and the similar AEFI occurrence compared to controls should reassure on mRNA vaccine safety in RMD patients.