Pitt CoVER Study Aims to Understand COVID-19 Vaccine Response in Patients with Autoimmune Diseases

By: Taylor Andres

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are conducting the CoVER study to better understand the effects of COVID-19 vaccines in patients with autoimmune diseases.

Patients with underlying autoimmune diseases – estimated to make up 3% of the U.S. population – were not included in the original SARS-CoV-2 vaccine trials, so there is a need to better understand the way COVID-19 vaccination impacts this patient population—both in terms of immune response from the vaccine, as well as identifying any potential negative outcomes like new or worsening of autoimmune disease symptoms.

“There is little information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness and overall safety for patients with autoimmune diseases,” explained co-principal investigator of the study, Dr. Robyn Domsic, a UPMC rheumatologist who is also an associate professor of medicine and clinical director of the Scleroderma Center at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “We want to understand whether these patients produce the same level of neutralizing antibodies, whether there is a difference in vaccine tolerability or side effects and whether the vaccines can cause flare ups in these patients’ conditions.”

The study is recruiting patients with rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, myositis or scleroderma, who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Participants will be asked to provide 3-4 blood samples and answer periodic online questionnaire assessments over the course of a year to report medications and changes in autoimmune disease symptoms.

Eligible participants:

• Ages 18 and up
• Diagnosed by a rheumatologist with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Systemic Sclerosis (scleroderma), Idiopathic Inflammatory Myopathy (myositis) or Sjogren’s Syndrome
• Willing to get, or has already received a COVID-19 vaccine or booster
• Willing to provide blood samples

To enroll in the study, or for more information email covidcoverstudy@upmc.edu.