Patients with myeloma do gain protection from the COVID-19 vaccines, according to a new study conducted by the Institute of Cancer Research in London. Immune responses were observed in 70% of the 93 myeloma patients treated at the Royal Marsden Hospital.
Doctors have reported concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccine for myeloma patients, worried that the vaccines offer no protection against the virus.
However, the research found that 52 patients tested positive for IgG antibodies against COVID-19 after their first vaccination. Further testing of 40 of the people who were negative of IgG antibodies revealed another 13 patients who were positive for other antibodies against the virus, giving a total of 65 out of 93 patients, or 70%, with observable immune responses.
The work is published in the journal Lancet Haematology. The researchers said there was no sign of any differences in reaction to the Pfizer mRNA vaccine or the AstraZeneca adenoviral vaccine.
The study found the greatest response among patients reported to be responding well to treatment, compared to those whose disease was responding poorly. The research team now plans further tests after patients receive their second dose of vaccine.
Co-leader of the study Dr Kevin Boyd said: “Patients living with myeloma have had a difficult time during the coronavirus pandemic with long periods of enforced shielding. Because they are a vulnerable group, they were prioritised in the vaccination programme, along with many other patients with blood cancers.
“We know from talking to patients in clinic that they are worried about whether the vaccine will offer them good protection, as they know that patients such as themselves were not included in the original vaccine trials and they also know that their immune system can be weakened by this disease.
“This study is not reassuring for every patient, as we do see reduced vaccine response rates compared with the general population. However, overall the results are encouraging, showing that the majority of patients do respond to their first vaccine dose, and I expect this to improve following the second dose.
“As society begins to unlock, our patients wish to start seeing relatives and loved ones again and, like all of us, start to enjoy a more normal life. I hope this study provides some reassurance that this should be possible.”
Fellow co-leader of the research, Dr Charlotte Pawlyn, said: “We do need to monitor patients closely after vaccination to ensure the presence of antibodies translates to protection from infection, how long any protection lasts and to identify those who are less likely to be protected.”
Bird S, Panopoulou A, Shea RL, Tsui M, Saso R, Sud A, West S, Smith K, Barwood J, Kaczmarek E, Panlaqui C, Kaiser M, Stern S, Pawlyn C, Boyd K (2021) “Response to first vaccination against SARS- CoV-2 in patients with multiple myeloma.” Lancet Haematology, doi: 10.1016/S2352-3026(21)00110-1
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