Only 18% of people who have had a kidney transplant develop antibody responses to COVID-19 vaccines

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Only 18% of people who have had kidney transplants develop antibody reactions to COVID-19 vaccines as a result of immunosuppressive drugs – compared to 90% of those on dialysis

  • New study examined 55 patients, including 45 kidney transplant recipients and 10 patients on chronic hemodialysis
  • After two doses of Pfizer vaccine, 88.9% of dialysis patients developed antibodies to the virus, compared to 17.8% of transplant recipients
  • For T-cell responses, a type of white blood cell, they were evident in 100% of dialysis patients, but only in 57.8% of transplant patients
  • Researchers believe the low rates in organ recipients are due to immune system suppression

Kidney patients on dialysis had better antibody responses to COVID-19 vaccines than transplant patients, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that patients whose kidneys failed were nearly five times more likely to develop antibodies than those who had just received a new organ.

In addition, half as many organ recipients generated T cells, a type of white blood cell that binds to and kills viruses, compared to those on dialysis.

The team at the University Hospital of Rouen in France say the findings suggest more research needs to be done on different vaccination strategies for transplant patients so that they receive the best possible protection against COVID-19.

A new study from France found that after two doses of Pfizer's vaccine, 88.9% of dialysis patients developed antibodies to the virus, compared with 17.8% of kidney transplant recipients.  Pictured: Janice Brown connected to a dialysis machine in the isolation room of the COVID-19 unit at Desert Valley Medical Group in Victorville, California, April 2020

A new study from France found that after two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, 88.9% of dialysis patients developed antibodies to the virus, compared with 17.8% of kidney transplant recipients. Pictured: Janice Brown connected to a dialysis machine in the isolation room of the COVID-19 unit at Desert Valley Medical Group in Victorville, California, April 2020

Recent studies have suggested that people who have had organ transplants have less protection than the general population.

A Johns Hopkins study as of March 2021, it was found that only 17 percent of transplant recipients produced acceptable antibody levels after just one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

A follow-up in May found that this number had risen to just 54 percent after the second injection.

The reason for this low level of protection is that transplant recipients take lifelong immunosuppressants to prevent their bodies from rejecting the donor organ.

These drugs likely interfere with the body’s ability to generate immune system cells that protect against COVID-19.

For the new study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, the team looked at a total of 55 patients: 45 kidney transplant recipients and 10 patients undergoing chronic hemodialysis.

All patients received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, 21 days apart.

After the second dose, 88.9 percent of dialysis patients developed neutralizing antibodies to the virus — in line with the numbers in the general population.

In comparison, response was seen in 17.8 percent of transplant recipients, representing a 4.9-fold decrease.

In addition, when researchers looked at the response of T cells, they found that it was clear in 100 percent of dialysis patients, but only 57.8 percent of transplant patients.

The team says the findings could be used to develop specific vaccination strategies for kidney transplant recipients.

“The vaccine appears to be efficient in individuals undergoing dialysis, indicating that vaccination should be strongly recommended in these patients,” study author Dr Dominique Bertrand said in a statement.

In contrast, the low antibody response seen in kidney transplant recipients is of concern.

‘However, antibodies are not the full spectrum of protection induced by the vaccine. T-cell immunity is probably also very important.’

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