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Vaccinating the inflammatory bowel disease patient: Deficiencies in gastroenterologists knowledge

Wasan, Sharmeel K. MD1,*; Coukos, Jennifer A. BS1; Farraye, Francis A. MD, MSc1

doi: 10.1002/ibd.21667
Original Article

Background: Current therapy for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients often involves agents that suppress the immune system, placing patients at an increased risk for developing infections, of which several are potentially vaccine preventable. Many IBD patients are not being vaccinated appropriately. The aims of this study were to assess gastroenterologist's knowledge regarding vaccinating the IBD patient, eliciting the barriers that prevent vaccinations, and defining the gastroenterologist's role in vaccinations.

Methods: One thousand gastroenterologists, randomly selected from the membership of the American College of Gastroenterology, were asked to complete a 19 question electronic survey regarding the suitable vaccines for the immunocompetent and immunosuppressed IBD patient and the barriers to recommending the vaccines. The perceived role of the gastroenterologist versus the primary care physician (PCP) was also assessed.

Results: In all, 108 responses were analyzed; 68 (62%) gastroenterologists managed 40+ IBD patients, with 65 (52%) asking their patients about immunization history most or all of the time. The majority believed that the PCP should determine which vaccinations to give (64%) and to administer the vaccines (83%). Overall, 66%–88% of gastroenterologists correctly recommended the inactivated vaccines for their IBD patients not on immunosuppressive therapies while 20%–30% incorrectly recommended administering the live vaccines to their immunosuppressed patients.

Conclusions: Gastroenterologist knowledge of the appropriate immunizations to recommend to the IBD patient is poor and may be the primary reason why the majority of gastroenterologists believe that the PCP should be responsible for vaccinations. Educational programs on vaccinations directed to gastroenterologists who prescribe immunosuppressive agents are needed.

1 Section of Gastroenterology, Boston Medical Center, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts

*Reprints: 85 East Concord St., 7th Fl., Boston, MA 02118


Received 4 January 2011; Accepted 5 January 2011

Published online 28 April 2011 in Wiley Online Library (

© Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, Inc.
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