The new policy of the healthcare system UCHealth, based in Aurora, Colorado, states that a majority of transplant recipients, as well as living donors, have to be vaccinated, but neither the prospective recipient nor the donor, who met in bible study 10 months ago, have received the vaccine.
Prospective donor Jaimee Fougner told CBS 4 that the treatment choice of the recipient, Leilani Lutali, had been removed.
“It’s your choice on what treatment you have. In Leilani’s case, the choice has been taken from her. Her life has now been held hostage because of this mandate,” Ms Fougner said.
She said she hasn’t been vaccinated because of religious reasons and Ms Lutali said she declined the vaccine because too much about the vaccine remains unknown. Neither of them knew that you had to be vaccinated for a transplant to be performed until last week.
A study published by The Commonwealth Fund in early July showed that the Covid-19 vaccines have “significantly curbed the virus’s spread and national death toll, saving an estimated 279,000 lives and averting up to 1.25 million hospitalizations”.
“At the end of August, they confirmed that there was no Covid shot needed at that time,” Ms Lutali told CBS. “Fast forward to September 28. That’s when I found out. Jamie learned they have this policy around the Covid shot for both for the donor and the recipient.”
In a letter to Ms Lutali, the kidney transplant coordinator at the University of Colorado Health said it was “necessary to place you inactive on the waiting list. You will be inactivated on the list for non-compliance by not receiving the Covid vaccine. You will have 30 days to begin the vaccination series. If your decision is to refuse Covid vaccination you will be removed from the kidney transplant list”.
“You will continue to accrue waiting time, but you will not receive a kidney offer while listed inactive. Once you complete the Covid vaccination series you will be reactivated on the kidney transplant list pending any other changes in your health condition,” the coordinator added.
“I said I’ll sign a medical waiver. I have to sign a waiver anyway for the transplant itself, releasing them from anything that could possibly go wrong,” Ms Lutali said. “It’s surgery, it’s invasive. I sign a waiver for my life. I’m not sure why I can’t sign a waiver for the Covid shot.”
UCHealth said in a statement to CBS: “For transplant patients who contract Covid-19, the mortality rate ranges from about 20 per cent to more than 30 per cent. This shows the extreme risk that Covid-19 poses to transplant recipients after their surgeries.”
Transplant centres across the US have requirements for a transplant to take place. Patients may have to receive vaccinations for hepatitis B and MMR, and at times make changes in how they live and eat. UC Health told CBS that requirements like these boost the likelihood of a successful surgery and that the new organ won't be rejected by the recipient’s body.
“Here I am, willing to be a direct donor to her. It does not affect any other patient on the transplant list,” Ms Fougner said. “How can I sit here and allow them to murder my friend when I’ve got a perfectly good kidney and can save her life?”
The women are now looking at other states as there’s no hospital in Colorado that will perform a transplant on an unvaccinated patient.
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