1 in 10 US lung transplants are for COVID patients

COVID-19 patients now account for about 1 in 10 U.S. lung transplants, according to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing, as cited by NPR.

"If there were more lungs available for transplants, I believe the numbers would be greater than they are," David Klassen, MD, chief medical officer for UNOS, told NPR. 

In total, 238 U.S. COVID-19 patients have received lung transplants since tracking of the operations began in August 2020 through October, the most recent UNOS data available. 

Annually, more than 2,000 lung transplant operations are usually performed in the U.S.

Lung transplants for COVID-19 patients in the U.S. rose tenfold between the first year of the pandemic and 2021, according to UNOS data. Transplants for other lung diseases — such as emphysema, cystic fibrosis and pulmonary fibrosis — have declined compared to previous years.

With vaccines now widely available, the rise in COVID-19-related transplants has presented an ethical dilemma for some. Transplant centers consider many factors when listing potential recipients, but social and behavioral factors, including vaccination status, aren't normally among them.

Some transplant centers have taken patients off their lists if they aren't vaccinated, though some experts have said eliminating unvaccinated individuals from even being considered for an organ may be unfair because it could exclude racial, religious or ethnic groups with lower vaccination rates.

The American Society of Transplant Surgeons recommends that anyone awaiting a transplant get vaccinated against COVID-19. 


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