Vaccination of household contacts is key to protect kidney transplant recipients

Kidney transplant recipients (KTRs) have a 1000-fold lower response to COVID-19 vaccination, and vaccinating household contacts is the best strategy to protect this immunocompromised group. 

Due their need for immunosuppressive therapy, as well as underlying comorbidities, KTRs are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. New research from Royal Adelaide Hospital has found that only 32.6 per cent of KTRs achieved a detectable antibody response from COVID-19 vaccinations, and less than ten per cent showed evidence of protection against the virus. 

Better strategies for kidney transplant recipients

Lead researcher Griffith Perkins, medical scientist at SA Pathology and the Royal Adelaide Hospital Specialty Vaccination Clinic, says alternative strategies should be used to ensure KTR safety. 

 “The findings show priority booster vaccination of household contacts should be the preferred vaccination strategy to protect immunocompromised transplant recipients in any future vaccine or booster rollouts.”   

The strategy of providing vaccination and booster doses to close household contacts as an additional layer of protection for immunocompromised individuals is known as ring vaccination. 

Researchers from the Central Adelaide LHN and the University of Adelaide made the discovery by measuring the antibody response following COVID-19 vaccination in 46 KTRs in South Australia, who were receiving immunosuppression therapy, and compared it to healthy household contacts of a similar age. 

“The study is the most comprehensive analysis of the immunity afforded to transplant recipients by available vaccines,” said Perkins, who is currently completing a PhD with the University of Adelaide. 

Based on these findings, the team has commenced a clinical trial across sites in Adelaide and Sydney to boost vaccine responses in transplant recipients through modification of their immunosuppression. 

More about this research

The research was funded by grants from the Hospital Research Foundation Group. 

The study was published in the high ranking scientific journal, Kidney International.