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BSI response to study on immune responses to COVID vaccines in people with impaired immune systems

24 August 2021

The OCTAVE (Observational Cohort Trial-T-cells Antibodies and Vaccine Efficacy in SARS-CoV-2) study examines COVID vaccination responses in people with conditions, or who are receiving therapies, that could reduce the function of their immune system. Today this study published its first results as a preprint examining the immune responses generated following COVID vaccination in a subset of 600 patients. In response, the British Society for Immunology released the following statement.

Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“People with immune systems that function sub-optimally, either due to a medical condition or due to medication they take, are amongst the most vulnerable to getting very sick from catching SARS-CoV-2, making providing them with protection against the virus a priority.

“This new paper from the OCTAVE team is one of the most comprehensive studies to date of the immune responses generated by COVID-19 vaccination in patients with impaired immune systems. They found a great deal of variation in the immune responses produced by patients with different conditions following COVID vaccination. This is to be expected – the immune system is extremely complex and conditions will differ in how they affect the functioning of the immune system.  The good news is that approximately 60% of patients produced an immune response similar to those seen in healthy people after two doses. While patients with some conditions such as ANCA-Associated Vasculitis or inflammatory arthritis were more likely to produce significantly lower antibody levels following vaccination, T cell responses seemed to hold up much better.

“We still do not yet fully understand what components and levels of immune response are important in generating immunity following COVID-19 vaccination, what immunologists term the ‘correlates of protection’. It is therefore not yet possible to know whether these reduced immune responses result in less immunity for these patients – this is the subject of ongoing studies.  We still recommend that all people with impaired immune systems get two doses of the COVID vaccine as it will offer them the best chance of protection against falling sick with COVID-19.

“As we find our way out of the pandemic, we must keep researching how to optimise COVID vaccination schedules for patients with impaired immune systems to maximise future protection for these people. This includes examining whether booster doses would be useful and looking into other therapeutic options for the small minority of patients who are unable to generate an immune response following vaccination.”

You can read the full pre-print on Preprints with The Lancet. Kearns et al. Examining the Immunological Effects of COVID-19 Vaccination in Patients with Conditions Potentially Leading to Diminished Immune Response Capacity – The OCTAVE Trial. Preprints with The Lancet. Available at SSRN: