In 2022, researchers have published articles in the medical literature reporting organ transplant failures in people who have recently received COVID-19 shots. These reports include corneal graft rejections and solid organ transplant failures involving the kidneys, livers, lungs, hearts and pancreas.
A study by Japanese researchers published in June in the Journal of Clinical Medicine showed that acute corneal allografts may be rejected by those who have recently received COVID shots. Corneal grafts replace damaged corneas, the outer layer of the eye. Corneal grafts can restore lost vision and, historically, corneal grafts been one of the most successful organ transplants with a very low rejection rate.1
The Japanese study conducted an online search using PubMed and EMBASE, which showed that between April through December 2021, 13 articles were published worldwide showing that 21 patients (23 eyes) experienced corneal graft rejection post COVID vaccinations. All patients experienced graft rejection between one day to six weeks post vaccination.2
All COVID Shots Plus Other Vaccines Associated with Corneal Graft Rejection
The main cause for rejection was corneal edema (20 eyes), then keratic precipitates (14 eyes) and conjunctival or cillary injection (14 eyes). The cornea transplant recipients were evenly distributed between the sexes, with 10 males and 11 females identified in the study with the median age of 68 years old. Some 66.7 percent of the affected patients received one dose of a COVID shot and 33.3 percent received two doses. The shots administered included those developed by Pfizer/BioNTech (eight cases), Moderna/NIAID (eight cases), AstraZeneca/Oxford University (four cases), and Sinovac Biotech (one case).3
Patients who have had multiple corneal transplants, recurrent infections, and autoimmune disease have a higher rejection rate than other patients. Nine of the 23 patients in this study had more than one cornea transplant.
The study authors concluded:
As the global society promotes additional booster schedules in consideration of emerging variants, it is empirical that the effects of these vaccines on corneal grafts be elucidated. To establish appropriate immune-modulatory interventions, continued data accrual and investigation of the effects of COVID-19 vaccines should be conducted by observing the vaccination course and associated physiological changes in corneal allograft recipients.4
The authors pointed out that vaccine-associated corneal graft rejection include the flu, hepatitis B, tetanus and yellow fever vaccines as well as the COVID shots. They wrote:
… the projected societal shift towards a more frequent vaccination schedule calls for clinicians to be cognizant of a possible connection between the temporality of vaccine administration and graft rejections.5
Solid Organ Rejection Post COVID Vaccination or Post SARS-CoV-2 Infection
According to an August 2022 study by the National institutes of Health (NIH), rejection of a solid organ transplant after COVID vaccination while rare, can happen. Researchers conducted a systemic review and meta-analysis of cases of solid organ rejection post COVID vaccination or infection between December 2019 through May 2022. The study was limited by only looking at cases reported in published studies using the English language.6
Researchers included 136 cases from 52 articles reporting solid organ rejection after COVID vaccination (56 cases) and SARS-CoV-2 infection (40 cases). The study found 44 cases of cornea graft rejection, 36 cases of kidney rejection, 12 cases of liver rejection, two cases of lung rejection, one case of pancreas rejection and one instance of heart rejection.7
Solid organ rejection occurred regardless of which COVID shot patients received. Of 56 cases of organ rejection after vaccination, 31 had the Pfizer/BioNTech shot, 14 had the Moderna/NIAID shot, 10 had the AstraZeneca/Oxford shot and one had the Sinovac-Corona shot.8
Despite the findings, study authors maintained that the benefits of the COVID shots outweigh the risks for transplant patients. However, they recommend waiting one month after transplant and three months post T cell depleting agents or specific B cell-depletion agents to get a COVID shot.9
These studies findings are curious in light of the fact that many hospitals in the U.S. require COVID vaccination as a pre-requisite to organ transplant. Patients refusing the controversial vaccine have been systematically removed from transplant lists and denied lifesaving procedures.10
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1 Gillis M. New study finds organ recipients rejecting transplant after receiving COVID vaccine. Wishtv Sept. 13, 2022.
2 Fujio K., Sung J., Nakatani S. et al. Characteristics and Clinical Ocular Manifestations in Patients with Acute Corneal Graft Rejection after Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine: A Systematic Review. J Clin Med 2022, 11(15), 4500.
6 Alhumaid S, Rabaan A, Dhama K et al. Solid Organ Rejection following SARS-CoV-2 Vaccination or COVID-19 Infection: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Vaccines (Basel) August 2022; 10(8): 1289.
10 Hendler C. Unvaccinated Americans are Removed from Organ Transplant List. The Vaccine Reaction Feb. 7, 2022.