Vaccines to Protect That Precious Gift

Anyone who has so much as glanced at my blog posts knows that I support getting COVID vaccines. Period. Obviously for transplant recipients and others with a weakened immune system like my son, who has no COVID antibodies even after a third shot; obviously for everyone around them (including living donors, of course)—family, friends, neighbors, and people they have yet to meet. Like I said: period (with very very rare medical exceptions).

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on

I would have thought it was a no-brainer that anyone about to either give or receive a precious kidney would be all the more eager to have every protection possible. Like everything else, though, apparently there are exceptions.

Maybe you’ve read that a few U.S. transplant centers have instituted rules requiring COVID vaccines for both parties before a transplant can proceed. Considering that other important health screenings and protections are required, that sounded reasonable to me. However, the Washington Post published an article recently about situations in which an about-to-be living donor—ready to undergo surgery, entailing drugs during and after— had balked at the idea of receiving a COVID vaccine that has proven to be safe and effective at preventing COVID-related severe illness and hospitalization.

To be clear, not only is an organ recipient more vulnerable to catching COVID because of needing to take antirejection meds, but if they do catch it, they have a higher risk of developing severe, even fatal, complications. So, understandably, doctors don’t want to increase a transplant patient’s risks.

The transplant described in the article had to be cancelled days before it was scheduled, and the poor patient who’d been counting the days until he received his new kidney had to restart the search for a living donor (and fortunately found one).

But the article also similarly described potential recipients who’d refused the shot, which I found even more baffling. Why would someone who’s been on dialysis for years and gets a chance at a longer and better-quality life refuse a transplant because of the vaccine requirement? (Read the article if you want to know her reasons.)

I just don’t get it.

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