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Transplant patients urged to get vaccinated due to 'high risk' of infection

Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland said today that patients who are unvaccinated are at very high risk of infection.

Image: Leah Farrell

TRANSPLANT PATIENTS ARE expected to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to protect fellow immunosuppressed patients, the body managing organ donation and transplants in Ireland has said. 

A statement from Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI) today said that patients who are unvaccinated are at very high risk of infection given the recent rise in case numbers and that a transplant patient with Covid-19 “may unintentionally introduce infection to a transplant service creating a risk to other transplant recipients.”

As a result, patients are expected to engage with a number of protective measures in order to minimise risk, including vaccination, the group said. 

These measures include vaccination, strict adherence to mask-wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene as well as cocooning at home after a transplant, except for essential hospital trips. 

It comes after a letter was circulated to consultants at Beaumont hospital telling doctors that patients were strongly urged to get vaccinated.

The letter from a senior official at the hospital stated that “we feel that it will not be possible to continue to offer transplantation to unvaccinated patients.”

The hospital recommended that if a patient cannot be vaccinated for whatever reason that they be suspended from the donation waiting list until Covid-19 has passed and there is no further risk of infection. 

The ODTI clarified today that in the event that a transplant candidate cannot comply with the above measures, they will remain active on the transplant programme. 

Beaumont Hospital also said in a statement that “no patient, regardless of vaccination status, will be or has been removed from the transplant list.”

The ODTI said that in the event of a transplant donation a risk/benefit assessment will be completed to determine whether a safe and successful transplant can be undertaken in all the circumstances.

“Risk assessment may result in deferral of transplant surgery if the risk to the person is considered too high at that time because of inability to engage with protective measures or for any other reason,” the group said. 

“Covid-19 infection carries particular risk to kidney, liver, pancreas, lung and heart transplant recipients,” the ODTI said. 

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“Following transplant, the immune system is weakened and the risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19 is exceptionally high.

“In addition to the personal risk, a transplant recipient with Covid-19 may unintentionally introduce infection to a transplant service creating a risk to other transplant recipients.”

Beaumont Hospital’s statement outlined the same procedure in the event of a donation.

There are three specialist transplant centres in Ireland.

The National Kidney Transplant Service is located in Beaumont University Hospital where both living and deceased kidney transplants occur. Paediatric kidney transplants are carried out in Temple Street Children’s University Hospital.

The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital hosts the National Heart and Lung Transplant Service. 

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