Dialysis patients and immunosuppressed renal patients are at increased risk of COVID-19 and were excluded from vaccine trials. We conducted a prospective multicentre study to assess SARS-CoV-2 vaccine antibody responses in dialysis patients and renal transplant recipients, and patients receiving immunosuppression for autoimmune disease.
Patients were recruited from three UK centres (ethics:20/EM/0180) and compared to healthy controls (ethics:17/EE/0025). SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies to spike protein were measured using a multiplex Luminex assay, after first and second doses of Pfizer BioNTech BNT162b2(Pfizer) or Oxford-AstraZeneca ChAdOx1nCoV-19(AZ) vaccine.
692 patients were included (260 dialysis, 209 transplant, 223 autoimmune disease (prior rituximab 128(57%)) and 144 healthy controls. 299(43%) patients received Pfizer vaccine and 379(55%) received AZ. Following two vaccine doses, positive responses occurred in 96% dialysis, 52% transplant, 70% autoimmune patients and 100% of healthy controls. In dialysis patients, higher antibody responses were observed with the Pfizer vaccination. Predictors of poor antibody response were triple immunosuppression (adjusted odds ratio [aOR]0.016;95%CI0.002-0.13;p<0.001) and mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) (aOR0.2;95%CI 0.1-0.42;p<0.001) in transplant patients; rituximab within 12 months in autoimmune patients (aOR0.29;95%CI 0.008–0.096;p<0.001) and patients receiving immunosuppression with eGFR 15-29ml/min (aOR0.031;95%CI 0.11–0.84;p=0.021).
Amongst dialysis, kidney transplant and autoimmune populations SARS-CoV-2 vaccine antibody responses are reduced compared to healthy controls. A reduced response to vaccination was associated with rituximab, MMF, triple immunosuppression CKD stage 4. Vaccine responses increased after the second dose, suggesting low-responder groups should be prioritised for repeated vaccination. Greater antibody responses were observed with the mRNA Pfizer vaccine compared to adenovirus AZ vaccine in dialysis patients suggesting that Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 vaccine should be the preferred vaccine choice in this sub-group.