BACKGROUND: Patients with chronic, immune-mediated conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are often treated with long-term immunosuppressive therapies, potentially increasing their risk of developing an infection. Empiric data suggest that vaccines are underutilized in immunocompromised patients, despite published guidelines recommending their use. We aimed to assess exposure risk and immunization status among patients receiving care in an IBD specialty clinic. METHODS: Patients completed a self-administered, pretested, structured questionnaire during a routine visit for the management of IBD. Survey questions related to medical and immunization histories, and exposures to known risk factors for influenza, pneumococcus, viral hepatitis, and varicella. Additionally, in a subgroup of patients who agreed to donate a sample of blood, immune status to hepatitis A (HAV), hepatitis B (HBV), and varicella was determined. RESULTS: Two hundred four patients were asked to participate in the study; 169 completed surveys and comprised the study population. Mean age was 35 yr (range 13-75 yr). One hundred forty-six respondents (86%) reported current or prior use of immunosuppressive medications. Only 45% of respondents recalled tetanus immunization within the past 10 yr, 41 (28%) reported regularly receiving flu shots, and 13 (9%) reported having received pneumococcal vaccine. The most common reasons for nonimmunization with influenza included lack of awareness (49%) and concern for side effects (18%). Responses indicated that 75 (44%) patients were at risk for HBV but only 47 (28%) had been vaccinated against the infection; of patients with previous HBV vaccination, only three of nine (33%) had measurable antibodies against hepatitis B surface antigen. CONCLUSIONS: Immunization against selected vaccine-preventable illnesses was uncommon in patients with IBD, despite the presence of significant risk factors. Efforts to improve immunization status among patients with IBD and other chronic, immune-mediated conditions are needed.
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