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This is Savannah. She's 22 Years Old, A Heart Transplant Recipient And A COVID Survivor. And She Wants You to Get Vaccinated.

Photo: Savannah Nissel
Photo: Savannah Nissel

AdventHealth Central Florida doctors are encouraging transplant recipients to get vaccinated against COVID-19 when more shots become available to the general public. 

The American Society of Transplantation recommends transplant patients get vaccinated against COVID-19 between one and six months after their transplant. 

Transplant cardiologist Dr. Stacy Mandras says it’s unclear whether getting a shot could lead to an increased risk of organ rejection.

But Mandras says getting the shot is still worth the risk since people who have gotten transplants are immunosuppressed and could get life-threateningly ill with coronavirus.

“We recommend that our patients do get vaccinated. They are a vulnerable population and so I think that all of our transplant patients should be talking to their doctors about what the process is to go ahead and get their vaccine.”

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She says only a few of her transplant patients have gotten their shot simply because of limited vaccine availability. 

Of those who have gotten innoculated, their symptoms are the same as the general public: arm soreness and flu-like symptoms. 

Heart transplant patient Savannah Nissel says she’s already gotten the vaccine. But she still wears a face mask and she encourages others to do the same.

“I have had COVID and both the vaccine and I can honestly say that while I didn’t really have a bad case of COVID, I have another friend actually who has the same heart disease as me and she got really, really sick from COVID and actually is now in the process of getting another transplant herself.”

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She says she's grateful every birthday and baby shower she attends to be alive, and wants to protect the gift her donor gave her by continuing to practice CDC recommendations around the coronavirus.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.