High COVID-19 Vaccination Rates, But Concerns, for Austrian Patients

Margarida Maia, PhD avatar

by Margarida Maia, PhD |

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In Austria, most patients with hemophilia have been vaccinated against COVID-19 — but some expressed concerns over the vaccine’s potential side effects — a small study found.

Data showed that 75.0% of the patients in the study were fully vaccinated and that 87.5% had received at least one dose of a vaccine.

“However, in some patients, hesitancy persists,” the researchers wrote. “Treating physicians should emphasize on the positive aspects of vaccination and should provide advice regarding factor treatment at the time-point of vaccination.”

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The study, “High SARS-CoV-2 vaccination coverage but still room for improvement in patients with haemophila: A single-centre analysis,” was published as a letter in the journal Haemophilia.

Like most other vaccines, the majority of COVID-19 vaccines available at the moment are given intramuscularly, or by injection into the muscle. While some light bleeding may occur at the site of injection, there appears to be little risk of such complications for hemophilia patients.

“The risk of bleeding seems to be low in patients with hemophilia,” the researchers wrote, adding that “current guidelines suggest that general recommendations regarding SARS-CoV-2 [the COVID-19-causing virus] vaccination should be applied even in patients with hemophilia.”

However, it is unclear how many hemophilia patients in Austria may have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to date.

To determine an estimated total, Austrian researchers looked back at the electronic records of those who attended the Comprehensive Cancer Center Innsbruck for treatment through Dec. 1, 2021.

The study included 64 hemophilia patients with a known vaccination status. Of those, 56 (87.5%) had received at least one dose of a vaccine. These patients ranged in age from 18 to 77, with a median of 45.6 years.

A total of 48 patients (75.0%) had received two doses of a vaccine and were considered to be fully vaccinated. Among them, 10 (15.6%) had also received a booster dose.

“Our findings revealed that patients with hemophilia showed a higher vaccination coverage compared to the general population of Austria,” which was 63.3% at the time of the study, the researchers wrote.

“We speculate that those patients are more approachable towards scientific advances compared to the general population. Moreover, some patients with hemophilia could also perceive themselves as frail persons needing more coverage against possible side effects associated with COVID-19,” the researchers wrote as a possible explanation for the high rate of COVID-19 vaccination seen among patients.

Researchers also wanted to understand the reasons behind vaccination refusal. To that end, they phoned the eight patients (12.5%) who refused a vaccine. Their median age was 43.0 years.

Three could not be reached, and two said they did not receive vaccination as they were in poor physical condition due to a co-existing cancer. Four said they refused a vaccine for fear of side effects and two also had concerns over increased bleeding and interactions with their current replacement therapy.

“Information regarding the low bleeding risk might overcome potential doubts in such patients,” the researchers wrote.