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COVID-19 Vaccines and Primary Immunodeficiency Patients

A good news update for PI patients from Dr. Kate Sullivan: “I can be more optimistic than I have been before.”



Doctors advising the Immune Deficiency Foundation recently gave patients three reasons to be hopeful about COVID-19 vaccines.

1. First and foremost, patients who have a primary immunodeficiency (PI) should be able to receive any of the three current front-runner vaccines, said Dr. Kathleen Sullivan and Dr. Vivian Hernandez-Trujillo, who serve as medical advisers to the Immune Deficiency Foundation.

None of the three vaccine candidates with recently released trial data use live virus, which would be a concern for patients who have a primary immunodeficiency. The leading vaccines use either messenger RNA technology (mRNA) or a viral vector based on a weakened adenovirus, which does not replicate, said Sullivan, who is Chief of Allergy and Immunology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

2. The vaccines are likely to work for most patients who have PI, said Dr. Vivian Hernandez-Trujillo, of Niklaus Children’s Hospital in Florida. She excepted those who have antibody deficiency, because vaccines are designed to bring about an antibody response, but she said the vaccines might still provide some protection by prompting a T cell response in those patients. Primary immunodeficiency includes more than 400 rare, chronic disorders that increase risk of serious infections.

3. In the United States, immune deficient patients stand a chance at getting priority access to the vaccines, Sullivan said. Each state will decide who gets the vaccine first by setting “tiers.” The first phase typically will include health care workers, first responders and the high-risk elderly. There are no guarantees, but “some states may make the determination that people with immune deficiencies are in phase 1,” she said.

Sullivan has been updating PI patients by video since March and her updates have thousands of views on the IDF’s YouTube channel. Her latest report, the first since July, stood out for its steady stream of positive developments.

“Stay well, be safe and know that things are changing rapidly for the better,” she said.