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COVID-19: New study to examine vaccine responses in patients with impaired immune systems

Written by on 3 March 2021

The immune response to COVID-19 vaccines in patients with certain immunosuppressed conditions is set to be examined in a new study.

Patients with cancer, inflammatory arthritis, kidney or liver diseases, or those having a stem cell transplant, may have a higher chance of having the more severe complications of coronavirus.

Such underlying medical conditions and the treatment some patients receive as part of their care may weaken the immune system – which is why they have been prioritised to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

However, researchers claim current evidence suggests that people with these medical conditions may not obtain optimal protection from established vaccines.

So, the new Octave trial seeks to determine the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines in these clinically at-risk patient groups.

Funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the trial is a collaborative research project involving groups in the Universities of Glasgow, Birmingham, Oxford, Liverpool, Imperial College London and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Leader of the study Professor Iain McInnes, of the University of Glasgow, said: “We urgently need to understand if patient populations with chronic conditions such as cancer, inflammatory arthritis and kidney and liver disease are likely to be well-protected by current COVID-19 vaccines.

“The Octave study will give us invaluable new data to help us answer questions of this kind from our patients and their families.”

The study will look into the effectiveness of COVID-19 jabs being used in the UK in 2021, in up to 5,000 people within these patient populations.

Vaccine hesitancy Image: The research will look into the effectiveness of COVID-19 jabs

Researchers will determine patients’ COVID-19 immune response by using a variety of state-of-the-art immune tests performed on blood samples taken before and/or after receiving the vaccine.

They have begun recruiting patients at sites across the UK and will compare results from the study group against control groups of healthy people, without these underlying diseases, who also received coronavirus jabs.

It is not yet known how long COVID-19 vaccines provide immunity for, and there may be an ongoing need for vaccination against the disease for years to come.

Professor Fiona Watt, executive chair of the Medical Research Council, which funded the study, said: “This study is investigating the response to the new COVID-19 vaccines in people whose immune systems make them more vulnerable to Covid-19 and other infections.

“This will help ensure that those more at risk from infection receive the best protection possible.”