GET VACCINATED ACT UNVACCINATED WITH DORRY SEGEV, MD.,Phd
Athleisure Mag|June 2021
The Covid-19 pandemic has deeply altered all of our lives and we feel truly blessed to have the opportunities to have high-quality vaccines available in the US. We came across some truly excellent work in this area by a world-renowned organ transplant surgeon, Dorry Segev, MD, PhD, particularly around the efficacy of the vaccines for organ transplant and immunocompromised patients, and reached out to find out more about his studies and findings and definitely have important information to convey to our reader community. Please take note and pass along this information to your family and friends if applicable.

Dr Segev is the Marjory K. and Thomas Pozefsjy Professor of Surgery and Epidemiology and Associate Vice Chair of Surgery at Johns Hopkins University. He is the founder and director of the Epidemiology Research Group in Organ Transplantation (ERGOT), the largest and most prolific group of its kind in the world.

People who are immunocompromised or immunosupressed should get vaccinated when possible and also continue to strictly follow Covid-19 safety measures after vaccination, including proper mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand washing as the efficacy after their vaccine series may be less than people with healthy immune systems due to their condition or medicines they take. Studies are also underway focusing on these patients, especially those taking certain types of immunosupressants, who may be considering a third dose when seeing no/low antibody response after their vaccine series while working with their doctors and careful medical consideration.

We spoke with Dr. Dorry Segev about his recent groundbreaking study on Antibody Response to 2-Dose SARS-CoV-2 mRNA Vaccine Series in Solid Organ Transplant Patients, that evaluated the state of transplant and immunocompromised patients and Covid-19 vaccination in the US today; some upcoming studies he is currently working on; and some of the core fitness and wellness activities and life lessons that he focuses on in his active lifestyle.

See Dr. Segev’s groundbreaking study on Covid 19 mRNA vaccine response.

ATHLEISURE MAG: What led you to study the response efficacy of Covid-19 mRNA vaccines in transplant and immunocompromised patients?

DR. DORRY SEGEV: As a transplant surgeon, I take care of people who are on immunosuppression and who are vulnerable. We know that transplant patients were at higher risk of getting Covid-19 and higher risk of dying from Covid during the pandemic, so as soon as there was talk of the vaccine coming out I knew 2 things, 1) that transplant patients might be fearful of taking the vaccine because transplant patients and anybody with on immunosuppression were excluded from the original trials – so they did not have evidence the vaccine was safe specifically for them (eg. an organ rejection or a flare of autoimmune disease) - so very early on we wanted to make sure it was safe for immunosuppressed people and we did that very early on; and 2) we also wanted to understand how much immune response immunosuppressed people were having, because to have an immune response from the vaccine you have to have a functioning immune system and we purposefully inhibit the immune system of people with transplants and autoimmune diseases and things like that by putting them on medications that specifically blunt the immune system so that they don’t get rejections and flares and manifestations of their conditions. So it’s a balance between not wanting them to have a rejection but probably we are limiting the ability of their immune system to mount a response with the vaccine. Since this was a new vaccine technology and particularly dealing with a virus out there more fatal disease than say the flu - we did the study very early on. With the initial roll-out prioritizing medical staff and frontline transplant broadly on social media so we could very quickly say things about safety and immune response.

AM: What was your reaction to the results?

DR. DS: I knew that the immune response would be less - I had no idea it would be this much less. Basically after 2 doses of the vaccine, the overwhelming majority of transplant patients do not have evidence of the same level of protection that people with normal immune systems have. More specifically, half of them have no antibodies detectable after 2 doses which is in stark contrast to every single person with a normal immune system who would have high levels of antibodies, and even the half who have antibodies have lower levels than those in the general population with intact immune systems. So this is highly problematic for transplant patients. They probably have some level of protection if they get the vaccine, maybe they get less severe disease, but assuming they have the same level of protection as people with normal immune systems is a very dangerous assumption.

AM: So this is largely about the medications transplant patients and immunocompromised patients take?

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