New study will reveal how well COVID-19 vaccines protect dialysis patients

Image from the high throughput chemistry STP.

Image: Dave Guttridge

Researchers from the Francis Crick Institute and Imperial College London have started work on a new study, funded by Kidney Research UK and the National Kidney Federation, to find out how effective COVID-19 vaccines are in people who go to hospital for dialysis treatment (haemodialysis). Patients are being recruited at dialysis centres around the UK. 

Today, the best COVID-19 vaccine for haemodialysis patients is the first one available to them.
Edward Carr

COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out across the world in the fight against the virus. But although the vaccines have been tested in many people in clinical trials, these trials didn’t specifically include people with kidney disease. 

This new study will begin by investigating how people on haemodialysis respond to the vaccines. These patients are at greater risk than the general population, having to travel to hospital for life-saving treatment three times a week, and have been shown to fare particularly badly if they develop COVID-19. It’s hoped the research will later expand to include other groups of kidney patients to provide doctors with better information that they can use to guide treatment decisions. 

Edward Carr, postdoctoral clinical fellow in the Cell Biology of Infection Laboratory, run by Dr Rupert Beale, at the Crick, says: “Dialysis patients have been badly affected by COVID-19 so it’s exciting to be starting this crucial work to better understand how vaccines will work in these vulnerable patients, who are unable to fully shield. We hope this will help patients and doctors to make more informed decisions, whether that’s around the timing of booster jabs or the need to keep dialysis units ‘COVID-secure’ for a longer period. 

“Today, the best COVID-19 vaccine for haemodialysis patients is the first one available to them.”

The researchers are using blood samples taken from more than 1,200 patients across the UK before they receive their first vaccine and will compare the results with samples taken three to four weeks after both their first and second dose of vaccine. Samples will also be taken after six and 12 months. 

Scientists at the Crick will analyse these samples to determine how the immune response changes over time. This will enable the team to build up knowledge about the pattern of immunity and establish if this vulnerable group of patients is protected in the short and long term. 

The study will also look at whether other factors are important, such as age, type of vaccine, ethnic background, and other health conditions that patients are living with, such as diabetes. 

Ultimately this study will find out if the vaccines induce enough antibodies to protect against COVID-19 infection in dialysis patients, and how long these antibodies might last. 

This work complements the PROTECT-V trial funded by LifeArc and Kidney Research UK, testing if niclosamide can prevent infection or severe disease in vulnerable patients, including dialysis, and the OCTAVE study funded by the Medical Research Council, which is studying how well vaccines work in a wide range of vulnerable patients with different health conditions.


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