A study by the researchers from Johns Hopkins University have found that an extra dose of COVID-19 vaccines might give some organ transplant recipients a needed boost in protection from the coronavirus. Doctors sometimes give extra doses of other vaccines, such as the hepatitis B shot, to people with weak immune systems.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, millions who take immune-suppressing medicines because of transplants, cancer, or other disorders remain uncertain as to how protected they really are from the COVID-19 virus even after getting fully vaccinated. It's simply harder for vaccines to rev up a weak immune system.

For transplant patients, powerful immune-suppressing drugs prevent rejection of their new organs but also leave them extremely vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. This is the reason why they were excluded from the initial testing of the COVID-19 vaccines. But now doctors urge that they get vaccinated in hopes of at least some protection.

Monday's study by researchers from Johns Hopkins University reported in Annals of Internal Medicine, tracked just 30 transplant patients, but it is an important step toward learning if booster doses could help.

Results from the research

The study tracked 30 transplant patients. Out of them, 24 patients appeared to have no protection after the routine two vaccinations.

However, after an extra shot eight of them, a third developed some virus-fighting antibodies after the extra COVID-19 vaccine shot.

And six others who'd had only minimal antibodies all got a big boost from the third dose.

Working with the National Institutes of Health, the team hopes to begin a more rigorous test of a third vaccination in 200 transplant recipients.

Effect of vaccines on transplant recipients 

The Hopkins team recently tested more than 650 transplant recipients and found about 54% harbored virus-fighting antibodies after two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

This is although generally less than in otherwise healthy vaccinated people.

One study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders found 85% developed antibodies.

But those who used particular kinds of immune-suppressing drugs produced dramatically lower levels that are a cause for concern.

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