State lawmaker Tim Geitner has raised issues with a policy implemented at a hospital operated by the University of Colorado. During a Facebook Live stream, the local lawmaker said that a woman he knows was denied a kidney transplant because she's not vaccinated against COVID-19. Geitner said the hospital's policy was “incredibly frustrating, incredibly sad, incredibly disgusting."
UCHealth has not commented on the specific matter that Geitner referenced, but the hospital did inform the Denver Post that vaccinations are considered when examining potential transplant recipients “in almost all situations.” UCHealth Spokesman Dan Weaver explained that there are a variety of requirements for transplant recipients before, during and after surgery that predates the pandemic.
"For example, patients may be required to receive vaccinations including hepatitis B, MMR and others. Patients may also be required to avoid alcohol, stop smoking, or prove they will be able to continue taking their anti-rejection medications long after their transplant surgery. These requirements increase the likelihood that a transplant will be successful and the patient will avoid rejection," Weaver told the Denver Post.
The pandemic has presented a number of challenges to those who receive transplanted organs. As Weaver noted, transplant patients who are not vaccinated against the virus suffer a mortality rate that is 10 times higher than the general population. This presents a problem because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requires medical professionals to account for a patient’s likelihood of survival when allocating transplants.
“Patients who have received a transplanted organ are at significant risk from COVID-19,” Weaver said.
“Should they become infected, they are at particularly high risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death. A living donor could pass COVID-19 infection on to an organ recipient even if they initially test negative for the disease, putting the patient’s life at risk.”