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Vaccines, kidney disease, & COVID-19

Vaccines are one of the most effective tools to protect your health and prevent disease. Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed (also called immunity).

 

Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at keeping you from getting COVID-19. Experts also think that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19. These vaccines cannot give you the COVID-19.

What you can do right now

We know it’s been a really long year and we are all looking forward to good things in 2021. For now, the best advice is to keep doing following CDC guidelines and:

  • Do not socialize with anyone outside your household
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others and stop the spread of COVID-19
  • Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from others who don’t live with you, particularly in crowded areas
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol

And keep checking back – we are frequently updating our COVID-19 information, including vaccine updates.

What vaccines are authorized for use?

Currently, two vaccines authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19. As COVID-19 vaccines are authorized and then recommended for use in the United States, it will be important to understand what is known about each vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will provide information on who is and is not recommended to receive each vaccine and what to expect after vaccination, as well as ingredients, safety, and effectiveness.

Vaccine effectiveness rates

The reported effectiveness rates of both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are very high. However, it is important to note – neither of the vaccines were tested in people who are receiving immunosuppressant therapy, such as kidney transplant recipients.

Without the supporting data, there is some concern that the vaccine may not be as effective in preventing COVID-19 in kidney transplant recipients as compared to people who are not on immunosuppressive therapy.

At this time, there is no data on whether any patients with chronic kidney disease at any stage or those on dialysis participated in the COVID-19 clinical trials.

Most doctors agree that the benefits of the vaccine for people with chronic kidney disease at any stage, those on dialysis, and kidney transplant recipients are much greater than the risk of serious disease or complications from COVID-19. Talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine safety

The United States Vaccine Safety System ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. Even though kidney transplant recipients were not included in these early COVID-19 clinical trials, many doctors believe the COVID-19 vaccine will be safe for these patients because the virus used to make the vaccine is not living (similar to the appropriate flu vaccine). 

So, while the vaccine may be safe – its effectiveness in people who have had a kidney transplant is not yet known.

To date, there is no data on whether any patients with chronic kidney disease at any stage or those on dialysis participated in the COVID-19 clinical trials.

Most doctors agree that the benefits of the vaccine for people with chronic kidney disease at any stage, those on dialysis, and kidney transplant recipients are much greater than the risk of serious disease or complications from COVID-19. Talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine supply

There will be a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020, but it is expected that there will be more vaccines available in the weeks and months that follow. 

Due to the limited supply, the vaccine will be rolled out to the public in a phased schedule, with people who are most at risk due to their increased exposure to the virus. The recommendation is for healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first phase.

The goal is people over the age of 16 to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as large quantities are available. It may be some time before the FDA recommends the vaccine for children under the age of 16. This is because in the early trials, the vaccine was only tested in non-pregnant people over the age of 16.

The plan is to have several thousand vaccination providers available, including doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals, and federally qualified health centers.

What are mRNA vaccines?

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are messenger RNA vaccines – also called mRNA vaccines, and they are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases.

To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Other vaccines can use a particle or tiny part of the germ to trigger an immune response.

But – mRNA vaccines do not work this way. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein – or even just a piece of a protein – which triggers an immune response inside our bodies. This immune response produces antibodies – and antibodies are what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

Are mRNA vaccines safe?

At this time, the only licensed mRNA vaccines in the United States are the ones from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. However, researchers have been studying and working with them for decades.

Interest has grown in these vaccines because they can be developed in a laboratory using readily available materials. This means the process can be standardized and scaled up, making vaccine development faster than traditional ways of making vaccines.

mRNA vaccines have been studied before for of other viruses including the flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). As soon as the necessary information about the virus that causes COVID-19 was available, scientists began designing the mRNA instructions for cells to build the unique spike protein into an mRNA vaccine.

Future mRNA vaccine technology may allow for one vaccine to provide protection for multiple diseases, thus decreasing the number of shots needed for protection against common vaccine-preventable diseases. mRNA vaccines have also been studied for use in cancer.

Join our free Q&A webinar and Facebook Live, COVID-19 Vaccine: What Kidney Patients Need to Know, on Jan 11th, 8 am PT/ 11 am ET. 

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