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The authors of this position paper from the European Association for the Study of the Liver summarize the available data on COVID-19 vaccine use in the chronic liver disease population, including patients who are awaiting liver transplantation and those immunosuppressed after transplantation.
Issues such as safety, efficacy, and immunogenicity of the various vaccines available and in production are addressed.
According to a recent World Health Organization estimate, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, which originated in China in 2019, has spread globally, infecting nearly 100 million people worldwide by January 2021. Patients with chronic liver diseases (CLD), particularly cirrhosis, hepatobiliary malignancies, candidates for liver transplantation, and immunosuppressed individuals after liver transplantation appear to be at increased risk of infections in general, which in turn translates into increased mortality. This is also the case for SARS-CoV-2 infection, where patients with cirrhosis, in particular, are at high risk of a severe COVID-19 course. Therefore, vaccination against various pathogens including SARS-CoV-2, administered as early as possible in patients with CLD, is an important protective measure. However, due to impaired immune responses in these patients, the immediate and long-term protective response through immunisation may be incomplete. The current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has led to the exceptionally fast development of several vaccine candidates. A small number of these SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates have already undergone phase III, placebo-controlled, clinical trials in healthy individuals with proof of short-term safety, immunogenicity and efficacy. However, although regulatory agencies in the US and Europe have already approved some of these vaccines for clinical use, information on immunogenicity, duration of protection and long-term safety in patients with CLD, cirrhosis, hepatobiliary cancer and liver transplant recipients has yet to be generated. This review summarises the data on vaccine safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy in this patient population in general and discusses the implications of this knowledge on the introduction of the new SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.