Vaccine Hesitancy in Patients With Multiple Sclerosis: Preparing for the SARS-CoV-2 Vaccination Challenge

Objective

Vaccine hesitancy is a complex public health issue referring to concerns about safety, efficacy, or need for vaccination. Using pneumococcal vaccination, which is recommend in anti-CD20–treated multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, as a model, we assessed vaccination behavior in patients with MS to prepare for the upcoming SARS-CoV-2 vaccination challenge.

Methods

By a medical chart review, we retrospectively identified patients with MS treated with ocrelizumab at the University Hospital Bern in 2018–2020. Pneumococcal vaccination was discussed with the patients during clinical visits and highlighted in the after-visit summary addressed to the general practitioner before ocrelizumab initiation as part of our clinical standard of care.

Results

Pneumococcal vaccination was performed in 71/121 (58.7%) of patients, and 50/121 (41.3%) patients were not vaccinated. Patients who did not get a pneumococcal vaccination were younger (no vaccination vs vaccination; mean [95% CI] 40.1 [36.1–44.1] vs 45.4 [41.9–48.8], p = 0.028) and had more frequently a relapsing remitting disease course (no vaccination vs vaccination, n [%]; 43/50 [86.0%] vs 49/71 [69.0%], p = 0.031). Furthermore, patients who did not get vaccination had more frequently a history of comorbid psychiatric disorder (no vaccination vs vaccination, n (%); 12/50 [24.0] vs 7/71 [9.8], p = 0.035).

Conclusion

Our study demonstrated that in our single-center cohort, 41.3% of patients with MS do not get the recommended pneumococcal vaccination. Future research should focus on vaccine hesitancy in the vulnerable cohort of patients with MS to improve the safety of MS immunotherapies.

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