Third Corona vaccination essential in the absence of an immune response

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Verabreichung einer COVID-19-Impfung (Image: Michael Rabenstein/Uni-Klinikum Erlangen)
Study shows effect of booster vaccination for people without immune response

In a new study conducted by the German Centre for Immunotherapy under the leadership of the Medical Clinic 3 – Rheumatology and Immunology at the University Hospital Erlangen of the FAU, patients who did not develop an immune response to two vaccinations against the new coronavirus and thus had no protection against infection were subjected to a third vaccination. The results show that these people – medically also called “vaccination failures” – build up very good vaccination protection after the third vaccination in the vast majority of cases.

“We had already been able to show in an earlier study that patients with autoimmune diseases are much more likely than healthy people not to have adequate immune protection after two Corona vaccinations,” says study leader Dr. David Simon from Medical Clinic 3. In these studies, one in ten patients with an autoimmune disease did not respond adequately to the Corona vaccination, while in healthy people only one in a hundred did not build up adequate immune protection after two vaccinations.

This makes patients with autoimmune diseases particularly susceptible to vaccine breakthroughs.

“By consistently carrying out tests that examine the antibody response after vaccination, it was possible to identify all those patients from the study who did not develop an appropriate immune response to the Corona vaccination as early as spring” explains Dr. Koray Tascilar from Medical Clinic 3. These were primarily people with autoimmune diseases such as arthritis. They were informed about this situation and already in the summer of 2021, they were one of the first patients to receive a third vaccination. In response to the third vaccination, the vast majority of these patients with primary vaccine failure formed a robust immune response against the new coronavirus.

The data of the study prove the importance of the third vaccination. The status “fully immunised” after two vaccinations does not apply to all people after two doses of vaccination. Especially in patients with autoimmune diseases, a lack of immune response after two vaccination doses is not at all uncommon, so that a check of the immune status after vaccination appears to be important in this group of people in order to identify vaccination failures early on and to prevent vaccination breakthroughs.

“Vaccinated and ill” is thus possible, whereby there are both primary vaccination failures and those who lose their immune response after some time. Autoimmune diseases favour both situations. These studies therefore suggest that especially risk groups, such as patients with autoimmune diseases, benefit from a rapid third vaccination.

The studies were conducted within the framework of the German Centre for Immunotherapy (DZI) and supported by the German Research Foundation through the Collaborative Research Centre 1181 and the Research Unit 2886.

Further information

PD Dr. David Simon
Lehrstuhl für Innere Medizin III
Tel.: 09131/85-39109