Extra COVID vaccine may help protect transplant patients.

Extra COVID vaccine may help protect transplant patients.

Even as most vaccinated people celebrate a return to near normalcy, millions who take immune-suppressing medicines because of transplants, cancer or other disorders remain in limbo — uncertain how protected they really are. It’s simply harder for vaccines to rev up a weak immune system.

Monday’s study tracked just 30 transplant patients but it’s an important step toward learning if booster doses could help.

It didn’t help everybody. But of the 24 patients who appeared to have no protection after the routine two vaccinations, eight of them — a third — developed some virus-fighting antibodies after an extra shot, researchers from Johns Hopkins University reported in Annals of Internal Medicine. And six others who’d had only minimal antibodies all got a big boost from the third dose.

A small study offers the first hint that an extra dose of COVID-19 vaccines just might give some organ transplant recipients a needed boost in protection.

Next up: Working with the National Institutes of Health, Segev’s team hopes to begin a more rigorous test of a third vaccination in 200 transplant recipients this summer.

For transplant patients, powerful immune-suppressing drugs prevent rejection of their new organs but also leave them extremely vulnerable to the coronavirus. They were excluded from initial testing of the COVID-19 vaccines, but doctors urge that they get vaccinated in hopes of at least some protection.

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