Studies Find COVID Vaccine May Not Be Enough Protection For Organ Transplant Patients

While doctors say the COVID vaccine is our best protection against the virus, new studies have found for organ transplant patients, it may not be enough; CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reports.

Video Transcript

- While doctors say, the COVID vaccine is our best protection against the virus, new studies have found that for organ transplant patients it may not be enough. CBS 2's Jenna DeAngelis explains.

JENNIFER PEREZ: It's something I get very emotional about.

JENNA DEANGELIS: Within days, Jennifer Perez went from going to the hospital to ending up in a coma.

JENNIFER PEREZ: I had autoimmune hepatitis, and pretty much very rapidly I went from feeling unwell to acute liver failure.

JENNA DEANGELIS: The 37-year-old says, a liver transplant at North Shore University Hospital in March saved her life.

JENNIFER PEREZ: And I don't think I realized how close I was to dying.

JENNA DEANGELIS: At risk of contracting severe COVID, the mother of two can't wait to be cleared for her vaccine.

JENNIFER PEREZ: I want to feel a little safer.

LEWIS TEPERMAN: And the question is, what happens when transplant patients get vaccinated? Because of the drugs that they're on that prevent them from rejecting the organ, would they have the same response to a vaccine? And the answer is, they don't.

JENNA DEANGELIS: In a recent study, Northwell Health Director of Transplantation Dr. Lewis Teperman found only 40% of transplant patients tested had a response to the two dose COVID vaccines, meaning 60% are not protected. Similar results came out of a John Hopkins study, with nearly half producing no COVID antibodies.

LEWIS TEPERMAN: I think it's still very important that all the transplant recipients get vaccinated. So even if it's, let's say 50%, those 50% are going to be taken out of the equation and not continue the viral spread.

JENNA DEANGELIS: He says, patients with a reduced vaccine response should continue wearing masks and distancing while awaiting a solution.

LEWIS TEPERMAN: But we're calling for a study to see if you in fact can increase the response with a third dose or cross platforms and go to another company's vaccine.

JENNA DEANGELIS: In the meantime, with COVID restrictions easing, he's urging all get vaccinated to protect themselves and vulnerable patients.

JENNIFER PEREZ: You have to be hopeful.

JENNA DEANGELIS: Jennifer is getting her first dose next week. Once she's fully vaccinated, she'll be tested to see if she developed antibodies. At North Shore University Hospital, Jenna DeAngelis, CBS 2 News.