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New study update to investigate how fourth doses of the Covid-19 vaccine protect immunocompromised patients

27 April 2022

As the pandemic continues and vaccine guidance is updated, it is important that we continue to monitor how well-protected kidney patients are.  

We are now supporting researchers at Imperial College London to extend the MELODY study to test for antibodies against the virus that causes Covid-19 in transplant recipients who participated in the study after their third vaccine dose but have since had a fourth dose.

What is the MELODY study?

Back in December, we shared details of the MELODY study that we are funding along with the Medical Research Council, Blood Cancer UK, Vasculitis UK, and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, with support from NHS Digital, NHS Blood and Transplant and the Department of Health and Social Care. This study is investigating how well third doses of the Covid-19 vaccine protect immunocompromised adult patients, including those with cancer, autoimmune diseases, and kidney and other organ transplants. Patients taking part in the study are given a home-based, self-administered test to see if they have developed antibodies against the virus that causes Covid-19. 

Updating the study to understand how many immunocompromised patients are protected

Towards the end of 2021, with the emergence of the Omicron variant, the UK government announced an update to the Covid-19 vaccine guidance, stating that people who were severely immunocompromised should have a fourth vaccine dose 3 months after their third primary dose. 

Over 2,000 patients with a transplant were recruited in the initial stages of the study, to test for the presence of antibodies against the virus that causes Covid-19 after three vaccine doses. Data on the responses of immunocompromised patients following a fourth vaccine dose are now needed.   

Dr Michelle Willicombe
Dr Michelle Willicombe

With the vaccine guidance changes in mind, the study team will now invite the patients who participated in the study to do another antibody test after their fourth vaccine dose to see how many of them have developed antibodies. 

Dr Michelle Willicombe, study lead said: “Following recruitment of patients to the MELODY study following third doses, we are grateful for the support to assess whether patients responses have strengthened following their 4th- and 5th- doses.  It will be very important data to assess how the current national policies fit with current level of immunity in immunosuppressed people and inform change as necessary.” 

This addition to the study will help us to understand how immunocompromised patients are responding to vaccination and will help to inform future vaccination strategies. It will also identify which patients are most at risk of catching Covid-19 and may benefit from additional methods of protection. 

Dr Aisling McMahon, executive director of research, innovation and policy at Kidney Research UK said: “We were excited to see this study get off the ground at incredible speed and begin to identify those who remain at risk from COVID-19 after 3 doses of vaccine. It is important that, in line with the updates in vaccination guidance, we continue to monitor how well the vaccines are working in kidney patients and identify individuals who are still vulnerable to Covid-19 infection and may benefit from additional treatments.” 

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