COVID-19 Information for Transplant Patients
For Advanced Organ Therapies and Transplant Patients
The CDC recommends a third dose of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) for transplant recipients. Schedule your additional dose at (844) 987-6115 or through My Health Online. You can review answers to common questions in our COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs.
Frequently Asked Questions
COVID-19 Vaccine and Transplant Patients
The currently approved vaccines aren’t made from live or inactivated viruses and are safe for transplant recipients. Due to the safety of the vaccines and the risk of severe COVID-19 disease in immunocompromised patients, we strongly recommend that all transplant recipients get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Transplant recipients have a reduced antibody response to the vaccine compared to those without transplants but receive some protection against more severe COVID-19 disease via alternate immune mechanisms. Therefore, it’s still possible to build protection from the COVID-19 vaccines. Recent data suggest that a third dose of the mRNA vaccines in transplant patients who have previously received two doses of mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) can significantly increase the immune response to COVID-19. The American Society of Transplantation and the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation have provided guidance and recommend vaccination in transplant candidates and recipients.
We recommend that all transplant candidates get vaccinated as soon as possible. The ideal time to complete your vaccination series is at least two weeks prior to your transplant surgery.
If you’ve received an organ transplant in the past, we recommend vaccination starting at three months after your transplant surgery.
On August 12, 2021, the FDA authorized an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for fully vaccinated patients whose immune systems are moderately to severely compromised. This group includes patients who:
- Are in active treatment for cancer.
- Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress their immune system.
- Received a stem cell transplant within the last two years or are taking medicine to suppressive their immune system.
- Have moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome).
- Have advanced or untreated HIV infection.
- Are in active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress their immune system.
If you’re a transplant recipient or have one of the conditions listed above, received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and your second dose was at least 28 days (4 weeks) ago, you’re eligible for a third dose. Call (844) 987-6115 or sign in to My Health Online to schedule your third dose appointment. Please check our COVID-19 Vaccine Resources page frequently for updates.
Currently, you're not required to provide documentation from your doctor confirming you are eligible for a third dose.
We don’t currently recommend checking antibody levels after vaccination for all patients. There are several factors to consider:
- Most commercially available antibody tests only test for the presence or absence of antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, but they don’t determine the level of antibodies present.
- Right now, we don’t know the level of antibodies that gives protection against COVID-19 disease.
- Vaccines provide immunity through non-antibody mechanisms, which means a transplant recipient or immunocompromised patient will develop some protection even in the absence of detectable antibodies.
COVID-19 Information for Transplant Patients
We’re performing heart transplants, deceased and living related-donor kidney and pancreas transplants, and liver transplants without any reduction in service. For our patients, the risk of health complications due to organ failure far exceeds the risks associated with contracting COVID-19 through the transplant process. All donors and recipients are tested for COVID-19 immediately prior to transplant surgery.
You should continue to get your routine labs drawn unless your transplant team instructs you differently. Monitoring your labs routinely is critical to the continued success of your transplant.
Get vaccinated and encourage your household and close contacts to get vaccinated as well. Wear a mask in public spaces and avoid indoor crowds whenever possible. Practice social distancing by maintaining a distance of six feet (two meters) from others as much as possible. Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds, using soap and water. Remember to clean between your fingers and thumbs.
Don’t have access to soap and water? Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and put your used tissue in a waste basket. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands. If you’re wearing a mask, cough or sneeze inside your mask. Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes or nose, with your hands.
Yes. In general, transplant patients must always exercise caution about being in crowded situations. With the risk of COVID-19, we strongly recommend that you and your caregivers practice social distancing and adhere to your state and local authority’s public health orders.
The CDC recommends wearing masks in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere you will be around other people. Effective February 2, 2021, masks are also required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation. Masks or cloth face coverings should not be used by anyone who has trouble breathing, is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Remember that the face cover is meant to protect other people in case you’re infected. Masks don’t replace other methods of reducing your risk of infection, such as maintaining a distance of six feet from others and frequent handwashing.
We recommend that transplant patients and their immediate household contacts avoid both domestic and international travel at this time.
Transplant patients have weakened immune systems and may be at increased risk for developing COVID-19.
Remdesivir, an antiviral medication that blocks replication of the virus, is the only medication approved by the FDA to treat COVID-19, and it’s currently reserved for hospitalized patients. Other treatments have shown promising results in studies and have received emergency use authorization by the FDA. These include convalescent plasma, which is made from the blood collected from patients who have recovered from COVID-19, and laboratory-made antibodies that can block the virus from infecting human cells.
There are many causes of flu-like symptoms. We recommend consulting with your primary care physician as soon as possible. Do not change your immunosuppression. Please ensure that you have adequate immunosuppression and other transplant-related mediations at hand.
Patients who develop respiratory difficulty should go to the nearest emergency room.
Your transplant physicians and nurses are available to answer questions and provide direction by phone and My Health Online (hepatology and cardiology only).
ACE-inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB) are medications used to control high blood pressure and to treat heart failure and other heart conditions. There are no current studies that show these medications are either helpful or harmful in patients with COVID-19. Furthermore, these medications help protect against heart disease, renal failure and stroke. We strongly recommend you continue taking your medications as prescribed.