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What Organ Transplant Recipients Should Know About Getting COVID Vaccinated

Organ transplant recipients have a higher risk of severe COVID complications, and must get vaccinated on priority.

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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Vaccination is the key to breaking the chain of COVID infections and curbing it's spread.</p></div>
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The Covid-19 virus has impacted the lives of millions across the world where both the young the old have come in its grip.

While this virus hit people who were healthy and people with comorbidities, the complications have been more severe in the people with uncontrolled BP, diabetes, cardiac ailments, obesity, cancer and chronic liver and kidney diseases.

Globally people who have undergone solid organ transplants have been identified as high risk populations for COVID-19 and its associated complications.

Hence, they have been prioritised for vaccination in public health guidelines.

Vaccination has emerged as the key tool for controlling the ongoing pandemic and with the increasing emphasis on vaccination for COVID 19, patients with acute comorbidities and their caregivers have apprehensions about efficacy and potential side effects of the vaccine.

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Especially patients who are cancer survivors or the ones who have undergone organ transplant procedures (organ recipients) have been observed to have vaccine hesitancy.

As experts, we strongly recommend such patients get vaccinated as their immunity is already compromised, hence, making them most vulnerable to the highly contagious virus.

Not only the patients but their caregivers, family and friends should also get vaccinated to eradicate all potential risks of anyone being a carrier of the virus.

Additionally, even when these patients & their caregivers (family & friends) are fully vaccinated they need to strictly follow COVID appropriate behaviour.

It is important to understand that though people who have been vaccinated might not get affected by the virus, they can still be potential carriers and consequently spreaders of the virus.

While the vaccines have been checked for safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy it is true that it does not give fool proof protection against the virus but can definitely curb the severity of complications, in case the patient was to contract COVID.

With the impending risks of morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19 virus especially in immunocompromised patients, it has been proven that benefits of the vaccine outweigh any potential risks involved, if any, for transplant patients.

Be it following a COVID appropriate behaviour or getting vaccinations done, it is essential to understand that every small measure of protection against this highly infectious virus is better than no protection at all.

Especially for transplant patients who are likely to have more severe complications with COVID-19 leading to hospitalisation or prolonged ICU care and much increased mortality, hence vaccination becomes extremely crucial for them to reduce severity of illness and its complications.

Dos and Don’ts for Organ Transplant Recipients

  • Follow all guidelines related to COVID on social distancing and wearing a mask in public places or at work even both pre and post-vaccination.

  • Avoid unnecessary travel and even if you have to maintain COVID appropriate behaviour to protect the others.

  • Do not let your guard down, still watch out for any symptoms of COVID 19 especially if you have been around people who are unwell.

  • Fully vaccinated people who have other diseases like diabetes, heart problems, have undergone transplants that make their immunity vulnerable, should continue taking all precautions and report the slightest symptoms to their doctors.

Similar to any other person, a patient who has undergone organ transplant is also at a risk of acquiring COVID-19.

However, due to the immunosuppressive drugs given to transplant recipients, their propensity to develop severe COVID-19 is higher as compared to other immunocompetent persons or non-transplant persons and are more likely to require ICU Care as compared to the general population.

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Why Organ Transplant Patients Shouldn't Skip the Vaccine

  • Risk of contracting COVID-19 infection goes down significantly

  • Risk of having severe complications if the patient gets the COVID virus is curbed

  • Once vaccinated, the risk of being a virus carrier of the virus is reduced

  • Vaccine will help in faster development of herd immunity

(Dr M S Kanwar, Lead Lung Transplant and Covid Team, Senior Consultant, Department of Pulmonology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals)

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