Precautions for Transplant Patients

The well-being and safety of our transplant patients is always our top priority. Information related to COVID-19 is constantly changing. Please continue to check this site for the latest updates and information. Transplant-specific information will be updated here.

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Important information for transplant patients who test positive for COVID-19

If you test positive for COVID-19 or are sick with symptoms associated with COVID-19, notify your local doctor and your transplant team. 

Call your transplant team before you take any pills to treat COVID-19.

If you cannot get treatment in your local community and you wish to try to receive treatment from our UW Health supply, please complete the online request form.

New treatments for COVID-19 are getting approved. While they offer hope, please be aware that drugs can interact with each other when taken together. The new oral drugs that treat COVID-19 will require us to change your transplant medicines to keep you and your organ safe. This is another reason why it is very important to tell your transplant team of ANY new medicine you are taking. Right now, there is a high demand and an extremely limited supply of all COVID-19 treatments. Priority for treatment is given to those at high risk of serious illness, including transplant recipients.

Quarantine guidelines: CDC guidance for immunocompromised patients (including transplant patients) remains at 20 days from a positive test or symptom onset.

If you had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (being within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more, providing care at home to someone who is sick, having direct physical contact with the person- for example: hugging or kissing, sharing eating or drinking utensils or being exposed to respiratory droplets from an infected person) contact your primary care provider and notify your transplant care team. You may be eligible for post-exposure treatment to help prevent you from getting sick. Quarantine, monitor for symptoms and get tested in accordance with CDC guidance.

COVID-19 continues to ravage our nation and is proven to be very harmful to transplant patients. Recent research shows that solid organ transplant recipients have a much higher rate of hospitalization, complications and death from COVID-19. Sadly, between January 1, 2020 and October 18, 2021, COVID-19 was the leading cause of death for our transplant patients. We must do more to protect our patients, including those who may be exposed to COVID-19 from unvaccinated patients.

Vaccination before transplant surgery gives patients the best protection against COVID-19.

Effective November 15, 2021, UW Health activated a policy that requires vaccination for COVID-19 prior to being waitlisted or transplanted.

Read this FAQ and this Health Facts for You for transplant patients.

We also strongly encourage the people who will assist patients with transportation, medications and/or live with patients be fully vaccinated prior to transplant surgery.

Information for patients being evaluated for transplant

As part of your evaluation, you will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Information about third dose/booster vaccines

All transplant patients should schedule their third dose or booster as soon as they are eligible:

  • Newly transplanted patients should wait two months after their transplant date. If you are actively being treated for rejection, you should wait until treatment is complete.
  • The CDC recommends that immunocompromised patients who received an mRNA vaccine (either Pfizer or Moderna) receive a third dose of the vaccine 28 days after their last dose. For patients that received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, the recommendation is for a booster two months following the last dose. This can be either Johnson & Johnson or one of the mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) vaccines.
  • Transplant patients should follow recommendations for future COVID-19 vaccine boosters as they become eligible to receive a booster.

Eligible persons can schedule their appointment for a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine using this online form. No provider note or other proof of eligibility is required. 

Antibody testing for transplant patients who had COVID-19 or a vaccination is not recommended per the FDA and transplant professional societies.

To better understand the reasons for these recommendations, please review this information:

Information for Pediatric Transplant Patients

Everyone age 5 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We strongly encourage pediatric transplant patients be vaccinated for COVID-19. Read more about the COVID-19 vaccine and kids.

Additional resources for families with kids:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics provides resources for safe schools.
    • This information (pdf), from pediatric infectious disease experts, can help families with pediatric transplant recipients make decisions about school attendance.

Protecting Yourself From COVID-19

Talk of a “return to normal” raises many questions for transplant patients. Even after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, everyone should:

  • Wait to see anyone who has symptoms such as runny nose, fever, cough, headache, loss of taste or smell, vomiting or diarrhea. Transplant recipients are vulnerable to others who are even mildly ill with COVID-19 or other illnesses. If you learn you were exposed to someone who tested positive, get tested 3-4 days following exposure, monitor for symptoms and contact your coordinator.
  • Consider asking everyone to do a rapid test before you spend time together. Rapid COVID tests are available at some testing sites, but you can also buy an over-the-counter Rapid COVID test at many pharmacies. Some brand names include BinaxNOW and QuickVue At-Home tests.
  • Continue to follow safety precautions (wear a mask, physical distance, wash hands frequently) even after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. For more information on the use of masks and how to prevent illness, please see the CDC guidelines.
  • Get your lab work done as scheduled. Follow prevention guidelines to protect yourself while at the lab.
  • Have a plan if you get sick
    • Create your plan with your loved ones
    • Create an emergency contact list, and include your coordinator’s contact information
    • Determine who can provide you with care
    • Identify aid organizations in your community
    • Stay in touch with others by phone or email. You might need to ask for help from friends, family, neighbors, community health workers, etc.

Information for Transplant Patients Who Have Symptoms or are Infected with COVID-19

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately. In transplant patients, emergency warning signs include:

  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Chest wall pain
  • Nausea/vomiting/diarrhea

This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Notify your local doctor and call your transplant coordinator. Call your transplant team before you take any pills for COVID-19.
  • Monitor how you feel. Use this guide (pdf) to track your symptoms.
  • If you have an upcoming appointment, contact your coordinator via phone or MyChart before visiting in person.

Information for Patients Awaiting Transplant

  • We are performing transplant using organs gifted by deceased and living donors.
  • We are testing all donors for COVID-19.
  • All transplant patients must be vaccinated for COVID-19. Patients are tested for COVID-19 before going to surgery. We will not transplant patients with an active COVID-19 infection.
  • We have visitor restrictions to decrease the potential for exposure.
  • Patients who test positive for COVID-19 should contact their coordinator to discuss when it is safe to have a transplant.
  • We ask that anyone who will have direct contact with a transplant patient be tested, avoid exposure by following CDC guidance and get vaccinated.
  • Anyone who tests positive should not be with a transplant patient until they are fully recovered and have completed their quarantine per CDC guidance.
  • If you learn you were exposed to someone who tested positive, get tested 3-4 days following exposure, monitor for symptoms and contact your coordinator.
  • Prior to your appointments, please read the Before you Arrive section below.

Receiving care during COVID-19

We are monitoring COVID-19 data and adjusting our services as necessary to maintain a safe environment for patients and staff.

  • We are contacting patients regarding their scheduled appointments and to schedule new appointments. Patients should read and follow the Before You Arrive section information, below.
  • We are using virtual visit options and clinic visits to evaluate patients and maintain their care. Learn more about Getting Your Care Safely at UW Health During the COVID-19 Response
  • Potential living donors may consider remote options for portions of the evaluation process. Lab work can happen locally. As the evaluation progresses, we will schedule a visit at University Hospital for more tests and a physical exam with a physician. Donors who prefer to delay the evaluation process can discuss future dates. We recognize that living donation is a very personal choice. We want to answer questions and support donors while they make this decision. We will also support their choice.
  • Patients can anticipate a delay on follow-up to questions that are not of an urgent nature, including prescription related issues.
  • Patients who rely on NSAIDs to treat chronic diseases should not stop taking them without talking to their provider. Read more

Insurance Changes

Contact us if you’re experiencing health insurance coverage changes. This is especially important for patients on the wait list. If you are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting your ability to receive your transplant medications or care, please contact us for assistance.

Email or phone a transplant financial counselor:
ADMtransplantfinancialcounselors@uwhealth.org
(608) 821-1555

Before You Arrive

We are screening all patients, visitors and staff for symptoms, and you will be required to wear a face covering in our facilities. If you do not have a face covering, we will give one to you.

Guidelines on Visitors

Please refer to our Patients and Visitors Guidelines page for the latest information.