The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused more than 100 million infections and 2 million deaths worldwide. In up to 20% of cases, COVID-19 infection can take a severe, life-threatening course. Therefore, preventive measures such as mask-wearing, hand hygiene, and social distancing are important. COVID-19 vaccines that use novel vaccine technology can prevent up to 95% of infections. However, the uncertainty regarding the efficacy and safety of vaccination in patients with autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic disease (AIIRD), who are immunocompromised due to underlying immune dysfunction and concomitant immunosuppressive treatment, warrants clear guidance. A task force of the Korean College of Rheumatology formulated a set of vaccination guidance based on the currently available data and expert consensus. The currently available COVID-19 vaccines are considered to be safe and effective. Every patient with AIIRD should receive one of the available COVID-19 vaccines unless contraindicated for medical reasons such as prior allergy/anaphylaxis to the COVID-19 vaccine or its components. Patients should continue immunosuppressive treatment for their underlying AIIRD, including biological and targeted synthetic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (b/tsDMARDs). Corticosteroids should be reduced to the lowest dose possible without aggravating the AIIRD. To improve the vaccine response, methotrexate can be withheld for 1-2 weeks after each vaccination, and the timing of rituximab and abatacept infusion should be adjusted if clinically acceptable. Rheumatologists should play a leading role in educating and vaccinating patients with AIIRD.
© 2021 The Korean Academy of Medical Sciences.