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ASH 2021: Effectiveness of mRNA Vaccines
Posted: Dec 13, 2021
ASH 2021:  Effectiveness of mRNA Vaccines image

The amount of information presented at ASH21 is incredible! As I wandered though the exhibition hall where the researchers present their studies and conclusions on posters, I felt shocked by the sheer volume of work being done to try to help cancer patients.

Dr. Samuel Stampfer MD, PHD presented a “Poster Abstract,” which is a summary of his study encapsulated on one large poster. He wanted to address a subject we myeloma patients are curious about: how we respond to the new mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

He and his team measured patients’ antibody responses to the vaccine by measuring the amounts of IgG antibodies. They measured this before patients received the first vaccination, and then two weeks after dose 2 to establish a “baseline.” The levels of antibodies were then measured again after eight weeks (after the second dose), and again after 16 weeks (after the second dose). The study included multiple myeloma patients and healthy people whose ages matched those of the patients. The healthy folks were not receiving immunosuppressive therapy nor were immunocompromised. The bottom line is, to compare how healthy people and multiple myeloma patients respond over time to these new vaccines.

Here is a summary of the findings.  Only 70% of myeloma patients responded to the vaccine compared to 100% of healthy folks. Both the healthy people and the myeloma patients experienced a big drop in antibodies between 2 and 8 weeks after the last vaccination. Any result below 147 international units per milliliter—IU/mL—is at risk for “breakthrough infections.” As you probably know, a breakthrough infection is simply when a person who has been vaccinated becomes infected by what they were vaccinated against.

Average Levels of Antibodies in the Blood Serum

Time All Myeloma patients tested Myeloma patients who responded to vaccine Healthy vaccinated people

2 weeks after 2nd vaccine

283.1 IU/mL 482.9 IU/mL 893.6 IU/mL


8 weeks after 2nd vaccine

90.9 IU/m 145.4    IU/mL 354.4 IU/mL

Dr. Stampfer concluded that due to much lower antibody levels among multiple myeloma patients, they are at a high risk for breakthrough infections two months after their second dose. Even those of us who respond to the vaccine have a decline in antibodies in only six weeks to a subpar level. This indicates a 67.89% drop in antibodies during those six weeks. He said, “multiple myeloma patients who responded initially to the vaccination are likely to require boosters sooner than healthy individuals.”  Because of patients’ high risk of infection even after being vaccinated, he advises us to maintain social distancing precautions when SARS-CoV-2 is prevalent in your local area.

As a myeloma patient this is good info to have. However, when I think that the vaccine loses its effectiveness in a pretty short period of time even for healthy people, it’s a bit disappointing. I wonder if we are just taking the first of many steps in discovering/creating vaccines for this newly mutated disease.


The author Steve Reinhard

about the author
Steve Reinhard

“I’m intrigued with personalized medicine, matching treatments to the person's genetics, age, health, gender, race, and different tests and assays being developed and how they are best utilized for diagnosis, treatment, trends and predicting relapse.”

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