Organ transplant recipient advocates for second COVID-19 dose
VANCOUVER -- A Surrey lawyer and two-time kidney transplant survivor is advocating for a shorter time between the first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses for immuno-compromised B.C. residents.
Stuart Zukerman is grateful he got his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week, but says it doesn’t offer him the same sense of security as it does others.
“I’m definitely not going to feel the same security that a regular British Columbian has who doesn’t have immunosuppressant issues,” he said.
Zukerman, who was born with only one partially-functional kidney, takes many daily medications to prevent organ rejection after he received a second kidney transplant in 2018.
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association from a top surgeon at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland suggests one of those drugs could make vaccination less effective.
The study found that fewer than nine per cent of transplant patients who took that immunosuppressant medication produced COVID-19 antibodies after their first dose of vaccine.
“Which means the second dose, the booster shot is vitally important,” Zukerman said.
“And the doctors who wrote that study say it’s important for that booster dose to be given within the manufacturer's recommended timeline, which for Moderna is 21 days and for Pfizer is 28 days after your first shot,” he said.
But in B.C., where vaccine supply is limited, the time between the first and second dose is 16 weeks.
“I am concerned about waiting that long,” said Zukerman. “As transplant patients or immune suppressed people, you have to have your immune system boosted more to overcome the effects of the immunosuppressant drugs you take.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recognizes some people don’t produce a strong immune response after the first shot, but argues the best way to protect them is to vaccinate as many people as possible.
“The more people we have immunized, so focusing on getting our community immunized is the most important thing we need to do right now. And that will protect everybody even if we can’t mount an immune response ourselves,” Henry said.
Zukerman says if he can’t get his second dose earlier, he wants B.C. to follow other countries like Israel and offer transplant patients a third booster dose to ensure full immunity down the road.
While he waits for his booster, he can only hope his first dose offers him some protection against COVID-19.
“(I) definitely will not feel secure with just the first dose,” he said.