USA Today: 'It Isn't Over for Us'
USA Today recently spoke with Gil Melmed, MD, director of Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinical Research at Cedars-Sinai, about concerns that the COVID-19 vaccines don't provide the same level of protection for individuals with compromised immune systems.
Current advice for transplant recipients and patients with autoimmune disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)—who are often treated with immune-suppressing drugs—is to get vaccinated, but to act as if they are not. They should continue wearing masks and keep their distance from others when in public for an extra degree of protection against COVID-19, experts say.
For IBD patients, the vaccines are safe and provide about 80% protection from COVID-19, which is lower than the level of immunity that healthy people achieve, Melmed told USA Today. But it's impossible to tell exactly what level of immunity any individual has developed. Melmed explained that antibody tests, which look for some types of protective antibodies, may not tell the whole story and only offer a snapshot in time.
Melmed is running a registry at Cedars-Sinai with colleagues Dermot McGovern, MD, PhD, and Jonathan Braun, MD, PhD, to track the response of more than 2,000 inflammatory bowel disease patients to vaccination. Based on the results thus far, he said he hasn't seen a higher percentage of so-called breakthrough infections among vaccinated participants than would be expected in the general population, though it is too soon to draw firm conclusions.
The goal of the registry is to eventually help researchers understand how vaccine protection might diminish over time and whether this happens faster in people with immune-related diseases such as IBD.
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