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Objective: To investigate the humoral and cellular immune response to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in patients with immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs) on immunomodulatory treatment. Methods: Established patients at NYU Langone Health with IMID (n=51) receiving the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccination were assessed at baseline and after second immunization. Healthy subjects served as controls (n=26). IgG antibody responses to the spike protein were analyzed for humoral response. Cellular immune response to SARS-CoV-2 was further analyzed using high-parameter spectral flow cytometry. A second independent, validation cohort of controls (n=182) and patients with IMID (n=31) from Erlangen, Germany were also analyzed for humoral immune response. Results: Although healthy subjects (n=208) and IMID patients on biologic treatments (mostly on TNF blockers, n=37) demonstrate robust antibody responses (over 90%), those patients with IMID on background methotrexate (n=45) achieve an adequate response in only 62.2% of cases. Similarly, IMID patients do not demonstrate an increase in CD8+ T cell activation after vaccination. Conclusions: In two independent cohorts of IMID patients, methotrexate, a widely used immunomodulator for the treatment of several IMIDs, adversely affected humoral and cellular immune response to COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Although precise cut offs for immunogenicity that correlate with vaccine efficacy are yet to be established, our findings suggest that different strategies may need to be explored in patients with IMID taking methotrexate to increase the chances of immunization efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 as has been demonstrated for augmenting immunogenicity to other viral vaccines.

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