Objective: The risk of COVID-19 infection is increased in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) versus those without SLE. Some immunosuppressive medications increase COVID-19 infection and decrease the efficacy of vaccination. Consensus documents have suggested management strategies for handling immunosuppressive medications to increase vaccine efficacy, but the benefit of such strategies has not been proven. The current study was undertaken to determine the effect of immunosuppressive drugs on vaccine response in SLE. Methods: We collected information on COVID-19 infection, vaccination history, and COVID-19 antibodies in the Hopkins Lupus Cohort. A cohort of health care workers was used for comparison. Outcome measures included SARS–CoV-2 antibody IgG levels after vaccination over time in both cohorts and effect of immunosuppressive medications on postvaccination IgG levels in SLE patients. Results: The analysis was based on 365 observations from 334 different patients in the SLE cohort, and 2,235 observations from 1,887 different health care workers. SLE patients taking immunosuppressive medications had lower vaccine IgG levels than SLE patients who were not; but both groups had lower levels than health care workers. Holding mycophenolate for 1 week after vaccination increased postvaccine IgG levels significantly without leading to clinical flares. In multiple variable models, mycophenolate mofetil, tacrolimus, and belimumab all significantly reduced antibody response to vaccination. Conclusion: SLE patients, regardless of background immunosuppressive therapy, had lower vaccine IgG levels than health care workers. Mycophenolate, tacrolimus, and belimumab significantly reduced IgG response to vaccination. Holding mycophenolate for 1 week improved vaccine efficacy, providing clinical benefit on vaccine response without leading to clinical flares.
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