Organ Transplants & COVID Update

With the outbreak of COVID-19 across the world and in our backyard, of Kirkland, WA, there is a lot of talk about people who are at a high risk to contract the novel coronavirus. Among the high risk are the elderly, people with underlying conditions; and one that is less frequently discussed is transplant patients due to  immunosuppressants—a key post-transplant medicine meant to suppress the immune system to try to restrain the body from rejecting a new organ.  
Though immunosuppressants are life-savers for these individuals, they cause these individuals to be that much more at risk to illnesses and in today’s case, COVID-19. Transplant patients are considered very high-risk to contract COVID-19 with potentially fatal consequences. 

UPDATES:

  • Total number of transplants (compared to 2019) has lowered since COVID-19, yet around 19,000 transplants have still been performed since January 2020
  • Some transplant programs have temporarily postponed some or all living donor transplants. Your transplant team will be the best resources to learn current status of operations.
  • Leading transplant societies advise those that have tested positive for COVID-19 to not be considered for organ donation. (NOTE: This advise is continuously assessed and could change in the future as more is learned about the disease)
  • Organ transplant wait times are always being updated as current policies require that transplant programs submit additional data for transplant recipients and living donors. The emergency policy change relaxes requirements for follow-up form submission. The intent of the emergency policy is to prevent unnecessary exposure risk to transplant recipients and living donors, and also to alleviate data burden for centers in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
    • If you are unable to get labs and testing scheduled, the new policy allows programs to submit the most current knowledge for you. This change will not affect your current listing status.

The virus is still at large in our community and it is important to remain cautious and continue to follow current medical advice regarding social distancing to keep everyone safe. Contact your transplant team and medical professionals for additional questions regarding social distancing and transplants midst COVID-19.

The virus is a very real threat, but we are encouraged by the progress that is being made towards a vaccine for COVID-19, as well as, the increased cases of full recovery all over the world. Although this is a difficult and scary time, with proper caution and safe practices, people with, and without, compromised immune systems can stay healthy.

-Vlad Elizarov, Alexander’s Hope Intern


Sources:

UNOS

Transplant Living