Kidney Community to Administration, Congress: Make Sure Vulnerable Patients Are Among the First in Line for COVID-19 Vaccine

November 25, 2020

CDC and Public Health Experts State that Patients with Kidney Disease Have Increased Risk of Severe COVID-19 Disease

WASHINGTON, DC (November 25, 2020) – Kidney Care Partners (KCP) – the nation’s leading kidney care multi-stakeholder coalition representing patient advocates, physician organizations, health professional groups, dialysis providers, researchers and manufacturers – today urged the Trump Administration and Congress to prioritize in Phase 1 the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to America’s most vulnerable patients, including individuals with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) who rely on dialysis.

Specifically, KCP encouraged the federal government to include dialysis patients and the health care professionals and staff who provide services to dialysis patients be included in Phase 1 of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. The request, sent in an official letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, highlights the significant comorbidities for patients who rely on outpatient dialysis multiple times per week, making them exceptionally susceptible to COVID-19.

According to a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD)—and ESRD, or kidney failure—are at an increased risk of developing severe COVID-19 complications. Data compiled by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) show that 50 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who were hospitalized with COVID-19 during the pandemic suffered from chronic kidney disease. Moreover, patients with CKD are more likely to die from COVID-19 in the hospital than those COVID-19 patients with preserved renal function. Similarly, kidney patients on dialysis have a shorter time between the first onset of COVID-19 symptoms to admission to a hospital intensive care unit (ICU), as well as in-hospital mortality, than do patients without pre-existing kidney disease.

“The more than 700,000 Americans with ESRD, an exceptionally vulnerable patient population, must be prioritized in the first phase of COVID-19 vaccine allocation,” said John Butler, president of KCP. “Despite their multiple comorbidities, elevated risk for infection, and disproportionate risk for developing deadly complications, they simply cannot avoid the dialysis services they need during the pandemic. In order to protect them and help prevent transmission of this dangerous disease, kidney patients and the healthcare workers who serve them must be among the first Americans to receive COVID-19 vaccines.” 

Given the vulnerability of kidney patients who require outpatient dialysis, it is also critical for health care professionals and staff who provide these life-sustaining services also be prioritized in vaccine distribution. Doing so will ensure that kidney patients are better protected against the transmission of the novel coronavirus, lowering the likelihood of getting infected and requiring hospitalization.

“Given the major steps the Administration has already taken to protect dialysis patients during the pandemic, it is only logical to prioritize vaccinating dialysis patients and their health care professionals and staff,” concluded Butler.