Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at higher risk to suffer from morbidity due to vaccine-preventable diseases and, thus, display an important target population to receive vaccines for protection from infectious complications. There have been only a few studies focusing on the administration of vaccines in RA patients with immunotherapy. Overall, antibody response rates against influenza or pneumococcal disease appeared to be only slightly lower than expected in healthy individuals.
Crucial problems in the interpretation of data from studies in RA patients vaccinated against influenza and pneumococcal disease are the impaired comparability of studies due to different study designs and type of vaccines used, different health states among RA patients, heterogeneity in treatments including concomitant therapy with conventional DMARDs and glucocorticoids in addition to biological agents.
Assessment of vaccination status should be performed in the initial work-up of patients with RA and should ideally be administered before initiation of immunotherapies or during stable disease. Due to differences in antibody responses and uncertainty regarding maintenance of protective antibodies, routine controls for antibody titers and specific strategies for earlier re-vaccination might be scheduled for patients with RA.