A prospective observational cohort study of covid-19 epidemiology and vaccine seroconversion in South Western Sydney, Australia, during the 2021-2022 pandemic period

BMC Nephrol. 2024 Apr 12;25(1):131. doi: 10.1186/s12882-024-03560-8.


Background: It is known that COVID-19 disproportionally adversely affects the immunocompromised, including kidney transplant recipients (KTR), as compared to the general population. Risk factors for adverse outcomes and vaccine seroconversion patterns are not fully understood. Australia was uniquely positioned to reduce initial case numbers during the 2021-2022 pandemic period due to its relative isolation and several significant public health interventions. South-Western Sydney Local Heath District was one of the predominant regions affected.

Methods: A single centre, prospective cohort study of prevalent renal transplant recipients was conducted between 25th July 2021 and 1st May 2022. Baseline characteristics, COVID-19 vaccination status, COVID-19 diagnosis and outcomes were determined from the electronic medical record, Australian vaccination register and Australian and New Zealand Dialysis and Transplant Registry. Assessment of vaccine-induced seroconversion was assessed with ELISA in a subpopulation. Analysis was performed using SPSS v.28.

Results: We identified 444 prevalent transplant recipients (60% male, 50% diabetic, median age 58 years (Interquartile range (IQR)21.0) and eGFR 56 ml/min/1.73m2 (IQR 21.9). COVID-19 was identified in 32% (n = 142) of patients, of which 38% (n = 54) required hospitalisation and 7% (n = 10) died. At least one COVID-19 vaccination was received by 95% (n = 423) with 17 (4%) patients remaining unvaccinated throughout the study period. Seroconversion after 2 and 3 doses of vaccine was 22% and 48% respectively. Increased COVID-19 related deaths were associated with older age (aOR 1.1, 95% CI 1.004-1.192, p = 0.040), smoking exposure (aOR 8.2, 05% CI 1.020-65.649, p = 0.048) and respiratory disease (aOR 14.2, 95%CI:1.825-110.930, p = 0.011) on multi-variable regression analysis. Receipt of three doses of vaccination was protective against acquiring COVID-19 (aOR 0.48, 95% CI 0.287-0.796, p = 0.005) and death (aOR 0.6, 95% CI: 0.007-0.523, p = 0.011), but not against hospitalisation (p = 0.32). Seroconversion was protective for acquiring COVID-19 on multi-variable regression independent of vaccination dose (aOR 0.1, 95%CI: 0.0025-0.523, p = 0.011).

Conclusions: COVID-19 was associated with a high mortality rate. Older age, respiratory disease and prior smoking exposure may be risk factors for increased mortality. Vaccination of 3 doses is protective against acquiring COVID-19 and death, however not hospitalisation. Antibody response is protective for acquiring COVID-19, however seroconversion rates are low.

Keywords: COVID-19; COVID-19 Epidemiology; COVID-19 Vaccination; COVID-19 Vaccination Seroconversion; Kidney Transplantation.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Prospective Studies
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Seroconversion
  • Vaccines*


  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Vaccines