December 6, 2021

Need a kidney? No deal, unless you’re vaccinated

A Colorado hospital has refused transplant surgery to a woman who is unwilling to have the Covid-19 vaccine. Leilani Lutali, 56, is a born-again Christian of no particular denomination, who believes that the vaccines are morally compromised because foetal cell lines were used in developing some vaccines.

Her hospital, UCHealth, informed her that she would be “inactivated” on a kidney transplant waiting list unless she were vaccinated within 30 days. A spokesman, Dan Weaver, explained that other transplant centres in the United States have adopted similar policies or will soon do so.

According to the Washington Post, “Weaver noted that transplant centres around the country may require patients to get other vaccinations, stop smoking, avoid alcohol or demonstrate that they will take crucial medications in an effort to ensure that people do well post-surgery and do not ‘reject’ organs for which there is fierce competition.”

UCHealth seems to be consistent. Earlier in the week it fired 119 employees who did not have a religious or medical exemption. (It employs 26,500.)

Some other hospitals encourage, but do not require, vaccination.

The lack of consistency frustrates Dr Kapilkumar Patel, director of the lung transplant program at Tampa General Hospital in Florida, where Covid vaccinations aren’t required. “We mandate hepatitis and influenza vaccines, and nobody has an issue with that,” he told NBCNews. “And now we have this one vaccination that can save lives and make an impact on the post-transplant recovery phase. And we have this huge uproar from the public.”

Transplant patients are a special sub-category. A number of studies indicate that Covid-19 is particularly lethal for kidney recipients. Weaver told the Post that their mortality rate ranges from about 20% to more than 30% — far higher than the 1.6% rate for the US as a whole.