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Transplant Patients & COVID Vaccination

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate? That is the Question…

By: Pat Sullivan | Co-Founding Survivor, The HeartBrothers Foundation

Recently, there have been a lot of reports regarding the “unmasking of America,” including the logic, the danger, and who is at risk.

The CDC surprisingly eased their mask-wearing opinion, and it is going to have a significant effect on the safe opening of America—especially for those who choose to vaccinate. The rationale is…if you’re vaccinated, your world will go back to normal.


In recent weeks, a Johns Hopkins (JH) study on solid-organ-transplant patients has thrown cold water on our (transplant) community and our safety! The team at JH has gone so far as to say that all solid organ transplant recipients on anti-rejection medications—whether immuno-suppression meds, steroids, or antifungals—should assume, even after we are vaccinated, that we are not protected and that we do not have an adequate defense against contracting a severe case of COVID-19.

About These Vaccines

This new type of vaccine—the mRNA kind—is different than previous vaccines. (Previous vaccines put a weakened/inactive germ into our bodies to trigger the immune system to build up a defense against a myriad of viruses. This new mRNA vaccine actually teaches our cells to make a certain protein to trigger an immune response specific to COVID-19.) The efficacy of the mRNA response is >90+%—far greater than any predicted efficacies the CDC or global teams of researchers ever anticipated when they began their research. The mRNA vaccine is allowing the human race to build safety bubbles in our socialization as more and more people get vaccinated.

The issue is this: Of the 1,000+ transplant patients in the JH study, only 54% are building antibodies after the second shot of either mRNA vaccine. Transplant/immunosuppressed patients, however, were not part of the original group participating in the vaccine efficacy study. It took JH to do a smaller and targeted study on people like us.

I have watched webinar after webinar. I have asked questions. I have researched the studies. I have talked personally with many clinicians about the findings.

The Bottom Line for Transplant Patients

They are working on what to do specifically for us—”we the blessed”—solid organ transplant recipients who have been gifted a second chance at life. There are many factors involved in the complicated (and little-known) world that is the immune system of post-transplant recipients. In addition to antibodies, they are looking at T-Cell and Free B-Cell parts of our immune systems and other factors that may have positive ramifications on our unique “Social Bubble.”

My conclusion is this: Right now, they just don’t know enough to fully grasp how best to protect us.

I asked one question to all of the clinicians, “If I am vaccinated and surround myself with vaccinated patients…can I go mask-less?” Every one of them said YES. I would be fine in those circumstances. That still doesn’t completely free us to attend huge mask-less indoor (or even outdoor) gatherings or crowded indoor restaurants and bars where we don’t know who is or is not vaccinated. But in smaller family situations and controlled social functions—when we know all are vaccinated—we are safe and free to show our face, laugh out loud, sing our songs, and even hug…

What a great step forward.

The bottom line is this: Be careful. Be cautious. But be positive.

What’s Next

We also now know, for the first time ever maybe, there is additional research and money going towards increasing awareness and research and advocacy on our behalf. We—the blessed—will survive this. We are now deemed worthy of study even though we are such a small percentage.

Please… have faith in our scientists and in our researchers. They are not trying to trick us into false hope or into FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). They truly do want to help us as much—and in some cases, more than—the normal population. Without such people, we wouldn’t be alive today. To get organs, vaccines, new meds, devices, and even more amazing advances coming our way in the future.

There is indeed a time to every purpose under heaven.

Get vaccinated if you haven’t yet.

Urge your friends, families, and contacts to get vaccinated.

Be cautious just a little while longer.

-Pat Sullivan

Co-Founding Survivor, The HeartBrothers Foundation


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