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Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine is available for transplant patients.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is no longer authorizing the previously available bivalent COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and Moderna in preparation for the arrival of the new formulation of updated COVID-19 vaccinations. This is expected in the fall of 2023. We will update this page with new information as it becomes available.
The safety of the COVID-19 vaccine is still being studied in people who have received kidney, liver, pancreas, heart and lung transplants. However, current data from COVID-19 vaccine trials that have been released supports the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. Transplant patients are at higher risk for developing a severe case of COVID-19 due to immunosuppression, which is a partial or complete suppression of a person’s immune system. The benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risks of not being immunized. We encourage all transplant patients to speak with their doctor before deciding whether the vaccine is right for them.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have 94.1%-95% efficacy in preventing COVID-19 in people with a normal immune system response. Studies still must be conducted among organ transplant patients to determine the effectiveness. It is possible transplant patients may have a lower antibody response than people without transplants.
• Similar to the flu shot, the vaccine is administered into a large muscle in the upper arm. Like with any vaccine, allergic reactions may occur. Some may experience mild fever, soreness, muscle aches, headaches, chills, fatigue/tiredness, muscle or joint pain, redness and/or swelling at the site of administration. These are signs of an immune response to the vaccine and are expected in some patients.
• Based on the FDA's data, possible side effects have been more prominent after the second dose.
• If you have pain or discomfort, you can take your usual pain reliever or talk to your pharmacist about taking an over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
• To reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot, you can apply a clean, cool compress over the area. To reduce discomfort from fever, drink plenty of fluids.
It is recommended that all transplant patients and their immediate household members receive the vaccine. If you have recently undergone a transplant, it is recommended to wait at least two months after your transplant surgery before getting the vaccine.
Transplant candidates should get the vaccine while waiting for transplantation. The candidate should receive both doses at least two weeks before transplantation if possible. If the patient is unable, it is recommended to get the vaccine two to six months after transplantation. If a candidate received a transplant after their first dose, patients should wait to receive the second dose four weeks after transplantation.
Yes, transplant recipients should receive the COVID-19 vaccine regardless if they have contracted COVID-19. Transplant patients can get infected again due to a low immune response or fading immunity from the first infection. If the transplant patient currently has COVID-19, they must self-isolate and wait for all symptoms to have passed. Vaccination can wait 90 days. If a transplant patient contracted COVID-19 between doses, they should wait till after the symptoms have cleared to get the second dose.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory committee on immunization practices recommends that the COVID-19 vaccine should be administered alone with a minimum of 14 days before or after receiving other vaccines.