New research raises concerns about efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine in organ transplant patients

Jacksonville, FL. — New research from Mayo Clinic finds the COVID-19 vaccine might not be as effective for organ transplant patients.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic conducted a small study that’s raising the concern Some transplant patients may have a limited immune response after being vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Dr. Hani Wadei, a Mayo Clinic Transplant Center nephrologist, reported at least seven organ transplant recipients were diagnosed with COVID-19 at the Jacksonville campus six to 44 days after receiving a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

Two patients had received one dose, and five patients had received both doses.

Dr. Wadei said five of the patients had to be hospitalized and three required oxygen when they left the hospital.

John Baldwin is one of Dr. Wadei’s patients. Baldwin received a dual kidney-pancreas transplant in 2009, putting him at the top of the list for being extremely vulnerable to the coronavirus.

He received his first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in February.

“Before I could get that second dose, I was exposed to COVID,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin spent two weeks at Mayo Clinic.

He was released from the hospital March 12, but his lungs still haven’t recovered.

“I’m still hamstrung in doing things because I have to carry oxygen tanks around with me everywhere, I go,” Baldwin said.

Dr. Hani Wadei said when his team tested the patients’ bloodstream for the antibodies generated by the vaccine, they could only find the antibody in one patient.

“That tells you that these patients because of the medications they take, because the status of their immune system, they cannot mount a normal response to the vaccine,” Dr. Wadei said.

He said the message they want to deliver is to not let your guard down.

Dr. Wadei is calling on further studies to test for vaccine efficacy in transplant patients and identify methods to boost the vaccine-related immune response in these patients.