Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the transplant program located?

The Multi-Organ Transplant Program is located at the Victoria General Hospital site of The Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia. The program provides transplantation services for patients from the four Atlantic Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

What is transplanted at the QEII Health Sciences Centre?

Solid Organ transplantation including kidney, heart, liver and pancreas.

How many transplants are performed in a year?

Please see Statistics .

How long do people have to wait for a transplant?

The waiting time for a kidney transplant for an average person is two and half to three years. Heart and liver patients are not able to wait that long, but may wait from a few days to nine months.

How do you decide who can be placed on a transplant list?

Each patient is evaluated in terms of his/her medical condition and need. This is done by a team of healthcare professionals. Guidelines that would exclude a patient from the list are based on medical criteria and the probability of an unsuccessful transplant.

When an organ is available for transplant, how do you decide who will get it?

All organs are matched by blood group. Hearts and livers are matched by size, urgency, and time waiting. Kidneys are assigned by genetic matching (DNA) and time waiting. Size is sometimes taken into consideration.

COVID-19 FAQ for Kidney Patients

What vaccines are currently available?

As of the writing of this letter, two vaccines are authorized for use in Canada and safe for use in the general public. Those are the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine and the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. More vaccines are in various stages of development/approval.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for solid organ transplant recipients?

Because the currently available vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine and Moderna Covid-19 vaccine) are not “live vaccines” we believe they will be safe for use in kidney transplant recipients. The Canadian, American and British Transplant Societies have all recommended that kidney transplant patients receive the vaccine. However, no Kidney Transplant patients were included in the studies done on these vaccines so far.

In clinical trials, minor side-effects such as tenderness/redness at injection site, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and chills were common. Serious side effects including allergic reactions were rare. It is also possible that receiving the vaccine may increase the risk of rejection. We don’t have any data on this yet. We will follow your kidney function more closely after receiving the vaccine so you will need to contact the clinic as soon as you know that you are going to be vaccinated. More data will be available in the next 3 months from countries like Britain and the US that have vaccinated more patients with kidney transplants.

Should I get the COVID vaccine?

Kidney Transplant patients are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID infections including kidney damage and death. The Kidney Transplant program believes that this risk outweighs any possible theoretical risk of rejection from the vaccine. We are encouraging patients to receive the vaccine as long as they are more than 3 months from the transplant with stable kidney function and no infections.

However, receiving the vaccine is an individual choice. In the next 3 months we will have better information on the risks of the COVID vaccine for kidney transplant patients. As the risk of COVID in Nova Scotia is currently low, some patients may choose to wait to receive the vaccine.

When will the COVID-19 vaccine be available to solid-organ transplant recipients?

The Kidney Transplant Program has submitted a request to the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness asking that transplant recipients receiving immunosuppression be made a higher priority for vaccination. We do not know if this will happen or if kidney transplant patients will be vaccinated with the general population. Patients should contact the Kidney Transplant clinic to allow closer follow up when they receive the vaccine.

How do I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness has yet to provide details as to how the COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed to the general public. Clinics within hospitals and long-term care facilities have been providing vaccines for their workers and residents. Community clinics and provider-based clinics are expected to be established in the future.

What else can I do to protect myself, family, and friends?

It is recommended that you continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing and other precautions as outlined by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness. Even after vaccination, you will still need to continue practicing these measures, as the vaccines are not 100% effective and they may be less effective in immunosuppressed patients. In addition to these practices, it is encouraged that friends and family around you also get vaccinated for COVID-19. If they are immune to the virus, it is less likely that they could pass it on to you.

The American Society of Transplantation. COVID-19 FAQ Sheet (released 2020/12/8).

The Canadian Society of Transplantation. National Transplant Consensus Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccine (released 2020/12/18).