COVID-19 infection and hospitalisation risk according to vaccination status and DMARD treatment in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

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OBJECTIVES: To investigate the incidence of COVID-19 hospitalisation in unvaccinated and vaccinated patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) compared with matched controls, and in patients with RA according to DMARD treatment.

METHODS: Danish nationwide matched cohort study from January to October 2021. Patients with RA were identified in the DANBIO register and matched 1:20 with individuals from the general population on age, sex, and vaccination status. Primary and secondary outcomes were COVID-19 hospitalisation (Danish National Patient Register) and first-time positive SARS-CoV2 PCR test (Danish COVID-19 Surveillance Register), respectively. Stratified by vaccination status, incidence rates (IRs) per 1000 person years (PY) and comorbidity-adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs) in cause-specific Cox models were calculated with 95% confidence intervals.

RESULTS: In total, 28 447 unvaccinated patients and 568 940 comparators had Irs for COVID-19 hospitalisation of 10.4 (8.0-13.4) and 4.7 (4.3-5.1) per 1000 PY, respectively (aHR 1.88, 1.44-2.46). When fully vaccinated, corresponding Irs were 0.9 (0.5-1.6) and 0.5 (0.4-0.6) per 1000 PY (aHR 1.94, 1.03-3.66). Unvaccinated RA patients had an aHR of 1.22 (1.09-1.57) for testing positive for SARS-CoV2 and 1.09 (0.92-1.14) among vaccinated. Vaccinated rituximab-treated patients had increased crude IR of COVID-19 hospitalisation compared with conventional DMARD treated patients.

CONCLUSION: The incidence of COVID-19 hospitalisation was increased for both unvaccinated and vaccinated patients with RA compared with controls. Importantly, the parallel decreasing risk for patients with RA suggests a comparable relative benefit of vaccination in most patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRheumatology (Oxford, England)
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)77–88
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society for Rheumatology. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:

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