A Johns Hopkins study finds organ transplant patients who receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine could boost their protection.
Gillian Ladd received a new kidney and pancreas three years ago. So, the double organ recipient has been especially vigilant trying to protect herself in the pandemic.
“I'm already compromised, and I've already been navigating the world in a much more cautious way,” Ladd said.
Transplant patients take medications to suppress their immune systems to prevent rejection, which can impact their responses to vaccines. Ladd got two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine when she could. Then came disappointment.
“I had not mounted any measurable antibodies,” she said.
Ladd took part in a study at Johns Hopkins Medicine which tracked 30 transplant patients receiving a third dose of the vaccine. One-third who had negative antibody levels after two doses had an increase after the third dose. All patients who had low levels of antibodies increased their immune response after the booster.
“The real impact of our somewhat preliminary findings is a glimmer of hope that we will be able to achieve an immune response in immunosuppressed people,” said Dr. Dorry Segev, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Segev led the study. His previous research shows half of transplant patients don’t show any antibody response after two doses of the vaccine, and the half that do have lower levels than people with normal immune systems.
“I'm quite confident that we will figure out for transplant patients how to give them protection. This is not the time right now to be celebrating the freedoms that come with the vaccine, yet,” Segev said.
Ladd is now positive for antibodies.
“The parents of my donor decided, so graciously, to give me a second chance at life. So, nothing was going to stop me from getting the vaccine,” she said.
Ladd says she’s hopeful for the future.
Researchers said there are risks with getting a third shot, and it hasn’t been carefully studied. So, it’s something they are keeping a very close watch on.