Yale transplant surgeon says COVID-19 vaccinations extremely important for organ recipients, living donors

Coronavirus

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — COVID-19 can be devastating for those with organ failure and organ transplant recipients. According to Dr. David Mulligan, Yale Medicine’s Chief of Transplant Surgery and Immunology, it is important for both groups to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Sadly we’ve had many patients who have had COVID. We have a patient in the ICU right now struggling to recover from COVID,” says Dr. Mulligan.

He says that patient is on a ventilator just months after receiving a donor kidney.

Dr. Mulligan says he has also lost several patients to COVID in the past year. And while the vaccine is important and can save lives, its effectiveness in Dr. Mulligan’s transplant patients is far from ideal.

Studies with hospitals including Johns Hopkins studied blood samples of transplant recipients who got the COVID vaccine.

“They found that only about 17 percent after the first dose are getting that immune response; that’s where you and I would be around 90 percent,” says Dr. Mulligan.

He shared preliminary study results.

“It seems that after the second dose transplant recipients are about 50 percent covered with their antibodies.”

He points out that is far short of the 95 percent in those without compromised immune systems. And while transplant recipients have to follow high safety measures after being vaccinated there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Dr. Mulligan says that when our population reaches herd immunity, vaccines will keep the virus from spreading, bringing high danger levels down significantly.

And while organ transplants were up six percent from 2019 to 2020, Dr. Mulligan says that COVID has hurt the number of living organ donors who became hesitant.

Living donor organs can include kidneys, part of a liver, a lung, or even a uterus.

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