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COVID-19 update: July 29, 2021

COVID-19 update: July 29, 2021

Site surveys to gradually transition to in-person visits starting in September

After more than a year of successful virtual site surveys since the start of the pandemic, UNOS Member Quality is preparing for the community’s phased return to onsite review visits. The site survey teams are planning a slow reintroduction of onsite interactions with transplant hospitals this fall, with hopes to conduct all routine reviews for all member organizations onsite by early 2022.

UNOS site survey teams received overwhelmingly positive feedback about the virtual site survey experience, while also getting feedback that members miss the relationship-building opportunities offered by in-person visits. While COVID-19 presented an enormous number of challenges in terms of connecting with members, it also offered new lessons. Member Quality is working to develop a hybrid model that will allow the highest-impact work to be conducted at the member facility.

Your organization’s staff will be contacted directly by site surveyors to learn more about your center’s COVID protocols in order to make the safest arrangements possible for an in-person visit. Email  [email protected] with questions.


Updates to candidate data emergency policy ended July 27

As of July 27, 2021, OPTN Policy 1.4.F is no longer in effect. This policy was among the emergency actions adopted in March and April 2020. It permitted transplant programs to report the most recent clinical data values available to support a transplant candidate’s listing or waiting time, if the program was unable to collect updated data due to issues related to COVID-19.

The OPTN Executive Committee voted to phase out the policy because use of the provision has declined over time as transplant programs have adopted new protocols to protect their patients during the pandemic. For additional detail, read the policy notice.

COVID-19 action regarding non-dialysis kidney candidate listing to sunset Sept. 1

The OPTN Executive Committee, meeting June 14, voted to sunset an emergency action that allows kidney transplant programs to list non-dialysis candidates who qualify for a transplant and document at a later date the data that supports their registration. This provision will expire effective Sept. 1, 2021.

The Executive Committee approved this provision in April 2020 as part of a set of emergency actions to assist members during the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee reviewed activity data and heard feedback from the OPTN Kidney Transplantation Committee and from kidney transplant clinicians. It concluded that while the provision helped transplant programs focus on clinical operations at the height of the pandemic, it has become less relevant as healthcare institutions resume ordinary operations. Learn more.

Update: Joint society patient information statement on vaccines

Out of concern regarding the flood of post-transplant COVID-19 vaccine studies in SOT patients and the possibility that this will make post-transplant patients hesitant to get vaccinated, infectious disease physicians from AST and ISHLT collaborated to develop guidance urging transplant candidates to be vaccinated whenever feasible. Leaders from across the transplant community have expressed support for the statement, including AASLD, ASTS, ITNS, TTS, NATCO, CST and UNOS. Learn more.

Lower respiratory COVID-19 testing required for all potential deceased lung donors

Effective May 27, 2021, OPTN policy requires organ procurement organizations to perform lower respiratory COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) testing for all deceased potential lung donors and have test results available prior to transplant of the lungs. This will allow lung transplant programs to evaluate the risk of donor-derived COVID-19 for potential recipients. For updated policy language and additional information, read the policy notice.

The OPTN Executive Committee approved this policy on April 26, 2021 upon the recommendation of the OPTN Ad Hoc Disease Transmission Advisory Committee (DTAC). Multiple cases reported to DTAC in recent months demonstrated the potential for donor-derived COVID-19 transmission to lung recipients when lower respiratory samples were not tested and results confirmed prior to transplant. The DTAC developed the proposal in consultation with the OPTN OPO and Lung Transplantation Committees, as well as OPO representatives on various other OPTN committees.

The policy was approved as an emergency action because of its significant patient safety implications, including the risk of patient mortality. It will be submitted for retrospective public comment for the summer 2021 cycle.


American Society of Transplantation Spanish language COVID-19 resources

Spanish language COVID-19 resources from AST, including a COVID-19 Vaccines for Hispanic Patients and Transplants recording.  

Pediatric Transplant Conference

Recording available from the inaugural conference hosted by Transplant Families.

COVID-19 information for patients

Find videos, FAQs, webinars, vaccine information and other resources for transplant patients at Transplant Living.


For COVID-19 related policy and operational questions, email [email protected]

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