H1N1 Vaccine May Not Protect Most Kidney Transplant Recipients

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DENVER—Most renal transplant recipients may not benefit from being vaccinated against the H1N1 influenza virus, according to a new German study.

During the recent H1N1 pandemic, public health officials urged vaccination, especially for immunocompromised individuals, such as those with HIV/AIDS or patients taking immunosuppressive drugs. In healthy controls, approximately 80%-95% of adults develop a sufficient immune response after a single vaccination. However, no data have been available on how well renal transplant recipients fared following vaccination for H1N1.

Susanne Brakemeier, MD, and her colleagues from Charité-Universitätsmedizin in Berlin studied the immune responses to the H1N1 vaccine (Pandemrix) in 60 renal transplant patients (12 females and 48 males) taking immunosuppressive agents and at least six months post-transplant. Twenty-two healthy individuals served as controls. 

Two transplant recipients had elevated titers prior to vaccination, but they were completely asymptomatic. Of the remaining 58 patients, only 34.5% mounted a sufficient immune response to protect against the virus and 65.5% had no response or a weak response. In contrast, 91% of controls had a sufficient immune response. A subgroup of 19 renal transplant recipients received a booster vaccination; of these, 42% mounted a sufficient immune response.

“These data suggest that in renal transplant patients, a single dose of Pandemrix as well as a booster vaccination is not sufficient to induce a protective immune response,” the investigators concluded.

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