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For the latest COVID-19 information, visit vcuhealth.org/covid-19 or Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU for pediatrics. For vaccine details, visit vcuhealth.org/covidvaccine.

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COVID-19 vaccines and transplant patients: Is vaccination safe?

Yes. You should get the vaccine. Here's why.

placeholder image Illustration: Getty Images

Updated January 15, 2021, regarding when transplant patients can get the vaccine

As a transplant patient, the medicines you take to prevent organ rejection weaken your ability to fight infections. You’re extra cautious in your daily life. You wash your hands often and stay away from crowds. This is true in times of pandemic or not.

Many vaccines contain part of the virus that makes you sick. Is that the case with the COVID vaccines? Should you get the vaccine, or should you avoid it? Can the vaccines give you COVID-19? Here, Dr. Megan Morales, director of transplant infectious disease at VCU Hume-Lee Transplant Center, answers your questions regarding the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines for transplant patients.

Dr. Megan MoralesIs the vaccine safe for transplant patients?

Yes. The vaccine is safe. Transplant patients should receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is not a live virus, nor does it contain weakened or killed virus. The vaccine relies on a completely different technology to attack the virus that causes COVID-19. You will not be exposed to this virus in any way.

I’m still worried. Is the vaccine worth the risk? I don’t want to take any chances on getting COVID-19.

Again, the vaccine does not contain the virus that causes COVID-19, so you can’t get the disease from it. It’s definitely worth getting the vaccine:

• The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective at preventing COVID-19.

• The Moderna vaccine is 94% effective at preventing COVID-19.

On the other hand, as a transplant patient, you are more likely to suffer more severe outcomes from COVID-19 than people who are not organ recipients. COVID-19 is a dangerous disease. If you get the disease, it could be fatal.

Are there side effects to the vaccine?

Like everyone else, you may experience side effects from the vaccine. These include a sore arm where you got the shot, headache, body ache and fatigue. These are signs that your immune system is responding properly to the vaccine. These side effects will go away within a couple days and are nothing to worry about.

When can I get the vaccine?

Transplant patients are now in Virginia vaccination tier 1B. VCU Health, in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Health, will soon have more information on when and where transplant patients can get a COVID-19 vaccine. You can follow the VCU Health COVID vaccine page or this story for updates. Should you have any questions,  please call us at at (804) 828-4104. 

Should I get the vaccine as soon as it’s available for transplant patients?

New transplant recipients should delay receiving a COVID-19 vaccine:

• Kidney transplant patients should wait three months after transplant
• All other organ recipients should wait one month after their transplant surgery.

Additional patients may also need to adhere to the three-month window. Those patients will be informed directly by our care team.

After I get the vaccine, am I safe right away? Do I have to wear a face mask or practice social distancing?

Protection may take a few weeks and may vary for pre-and post-transplant patients. Now is not the time to let up on the safety precautions you have been observing.

It is essential for the foreseeable future that you continue to wear your mask, practice frequent hand hygiene, physical distance from others and avoid unnecessary outings. Do not stop until you’re told to.

We’re here for you

Please know that all of here at Hume-Lee are here to guide you through the vaccination process. Our team is closely monitoring vaccine developments, distribution and recommendations for transplant patients.

We are on this journey together. Should you have any questions, you may call us at (804) 828-4104. For more information on the COVID vaccine, please visit the VCU Health COVID vaccine page.