COVID vaccination “critically important” for organ transplant patients

organ transplant patients, organ transplant covid
© Lazarenka Sviatlana

A research letter, published in Transplantation, suggests that COVID vaccination reduces infection and death risks in organ transplant patients

According to new data, fully vaccinated transplant recipients are at significantly lower risk of death from the virus.

Dr Jeremy R Chapman, Transplantation Editor-in-Chief, said: “These studies show that vaccine protects transplant patients and cuts mortality by about half, but sadly deaths are still much higher in transplant patients than in the vaccinated general population.

“The message to patients is clear – get vaccinated, but carry on being very cautious, wear masks, maintain distances and don’t get into crowds.”

The first research letter looks at UK stats

A research letter by Rommel Ravanan FRCP and associates of NHS Blood and Transplant, Bristol, reports on their analysis of UK registry data on 48,213 organ transplant patients.

They found that 39,727 had received two doses of COVID vaccine, either Pfizer or AstraZeneca. The rate of COVID-19 infection decreased from 51% in unvaccinated patients, to 19% in those receiving one vaccine dose, to 0.36% in those receiving two doses.

Among patients who tested positive for COVID, mortality was 7.7% for those who had received two vaccine doses, compared to 12% for those who were unvaccinated or received only one dose.

This UK study provides the first national registry-based analysis of real-world data on COVID vaccine effectiveness among organ transplant recipients. Dr Ravanan and colleagues said: “We believe this information will provide some assurance to vaccinated patients and help clinical teams target interventions to encourage currently unvaccinated patients to take up the offer of both vaccine doses at the earliest opportunity.”

The second research letter looks at breakthrough infections

Dr Dorry L Segev and colleagues of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, analysed the rate of breakthrough infections after COVID vaccination in 18,215 adults who had undergone solid organ transplantation – such as kidneys, livers and hearts. The patients with vaccines took Pfizer or Moderna.

The research found that overall, 151 patients developed breakthrough infections: a rate of 0.83%. In this group, there were 87 cases of COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation and 14 deaths.

Dr. Segev and coauthors said: “Compared to the general population, solid organ transplant recipients in our study had an 82-fold higher risk of breakthrough infection and 485-fold higher risks of breakthrough infection with associated hospitalization and death.

“As such, vaccination is critically important and should be prioritized in all solid organ transplant recipients.”


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