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Adults with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) will be glad to hear that they can safely receive the annual influenza vaccine, although they may not respond as well to it as people without RA. In the past, clinicians were reluctant to administer the vaccine to these patients because of reports of postvaccination flare-ups in disease activity, as well as an uncertain response of the immune system of these patients.
A study performed at the Tel Aviv (Israel) Medical Center involved 82 patients with RA and 30 patients without the disease, who were all given the flu vaccine. There were significant increases in antibody concentrations for each antigen in the vaccine; however, these levels were lower in RA patients than in healthy ones. Regardless, the response of the RA patients' immune systems was strong enough to offer protection against these antigens. More importantly, the vaccine was not associated with RA flares.
The researchers concluded that, "based on [these] data, ?vaccination against influenza, which is strongly indicated in RA, can be recommended in patients with this disease." The study was published in the February 2006 edition of the Annals of Rheumatic Disease.