Disease-Modifying Therapies and COVID-19 Antibody Response: Joshua Katz, MD


The chairman of the Clinical Advisory Committee of the New England Chapter of the National MS Society addressed the role DMTs play in patient response to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“So far, what we've seen in our patients is that it doesn't appear to make a big difference which vaccine they received in terms of their likelihood of making antibodies, although, I'll tell you that the numbers between the different vaccines are small, so I can't say that with certainty. But the bigger issue is that certain medications clearly reduce the antibody response to the vaccine, and others don't appear to do that.”

A new study initiated by the National Institutes of Health will evaluate the efficacy of an additional COVID-19 vaccine in immunocompromised patients. Funded and sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the phase 2 trial has been dubbed COVID-19 Booster Vaccine in Autoimmune Disease Non-Responders, including patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), pemphigus, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, or systemic sclerosis.

Joshua Katz, MD, codirector, Elliot Lewis Center for Multiple Sclerosis Care, assistant professor of neurology, Tufts University School of Medicine, and chairman, Clinical Advisory Committee, New England Chapter, National MS Society, discussed existing data on the variation in vaccine response in patients with MS, based on specific disease-modifying therapies (DMTs), noting that experts have not seen large differences according to the vaccine received (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen). 

Although not directly affiliated with the trial, Katz shared his thoughts on its potential, as well as a recent pilot study conducted to check T-cell response in patients taking anti-B-cell therapies who did not have an antibody response to the vaccine. Also discussed was a general interest in more data on DMTs and the COVID-19 vaccine, due to experts’ desire to let patients know whether a booster will affect antibody response. 

NIH launches study of extra COVID-19 vaccine dose in people with autoimmune disease. News release. National Institutes of Health. August 27, 2021. Accessed September 9, 2021. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-launches-study-extra-covid-19-vaccine-dose-people-autoimmune-disease
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