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Vaccines for the immunocompromised

The only protection against COVID-19 so far is vaccination. Unfortunately, those who are immunocompromised and those who have undergone a donor organ transplantation have been ignored in the vaccination plan.

I had a heart transplant surgery in 2018 and as a recipient whose life was saved by the miraculous surgery, I am worried about the consequences of this dreadful infection on patients like me. Closeted inside my flat for the past 16 months meeting no one, I find it eager to experience the freedom many will enjoy after vaccination. But that does not seem likely for those like me — at least, not yet.

Recent studies published in the Journal of American Medical Association, the American Journal of Transplantation and the British Medical Journal have dashed the hopes of millions of organ recipients and those immunocompromised. The studies have concluded that known vaccines could not produce enough antibodies in this category. Dorry Segev, a senior study author, has warned “they still may be susceptible to COVID-19 after vaccination.”

Those who have got a donor liver, lung, heart, kidney or pancreas are on immunosuppressants to prevent organ rejection. Immunocompromised people are those who suffer from asthma, arthritis, immune system disorders, cancer, AIDS and so on.

I was looking forward to getting vaccinated when with shock, I learnt that COVID-19 vaccines lack efficacy in us against the infection. The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and John Hopkins Medicine School University doctors advise, “We recommend absolutely that you get vaccinated” because if not, you will suffer severely, and take longer to recover, if at all.

The International Society of Heart and Lung (ISHILT) had recommended that organ recipients be kept in vaccine trials so that there is data to help with their treatment.

In America, according to a newspaper report, organ recipients, against medical advice, are chasing multiple doses hoping to develop immunity. Some immunocompromised people are stopping their immunity drugs temporarily to take the shot, giving a setback to their disease by six months.

If millions remain highly susceptible to COVID-19, the pandemic will not go as most people do not know about the challenges of the vulnerable categories.

We also need India-specific post-vaccination studies of this group to understand the situation better.

Sunil Shroff, a senior urologist and kidney transplant surgeon at Madras Medical Mission Hospital, Chennai and founder of MOHAN Foundation, an NGO, said, “Some doctors are thinking over the possibilities of making vaccine work for these groups though it is the scientists who have to take it forward.” He agreed that creating awareness at all levels would help take the problem closer to resolution. “All must get vaccinated,” he recommends.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 1:28:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/vaccines-for-the-immunocompromised/article35117446.ece

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