UCHealth: No organ transplants for most unvaccinated patients

UCHealth will not perform organ transplants on patients who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 in "almost all situations," The Washington Post reports. 

Dan Weaver, a spokesperson for the Colorado-based health system, told the Post in an Oct. 5 email that nearly all of its transplant recipients and organ donors must be vaccinated. He pointed to studies indicating transplant recipients who contract COVID-19 have a significantly higher mortality rate than the 1.6 percent fatality rate for the general U.S. population. 

"In almost all situations, transplant recipients and living donors at UCHealth are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in addition to meeting other health requirements and receiving additional vaccinations," Mr. Weaver said in an Oct. 6 email to Becker's.

The requirement is not unique, Mr. Weaver said, adding that there are other conditions transplant centers may require patients to abide by. These may include other vaccinations, avoiding alcohol, and agreeing to take critical medications to ensure patients' bodies do not reject organs post-surgery. 

In the email to Becker's, Mr. Weaver shared a number of studies that showed the death rate for transplant patients who contract COVID-19 ranges from 18 percent to 32 percent. 

"For comparison, the CDC says the current mortality rate for everyone who has tested positive is 1.6 percent. This is why it is essential that both the recipient and the living donor be vaccinated and take other precautions prior to undergoing transplant surgery."

He added: "An organ transplant is a unique surgery that leads to a lifetime of specialized management to ensure an organ is not rejected, which can lead to serious complications, the need for a subsequent transplant surgery, or even death. Physicians must consider the short- and long-term health risks for patients as they consider whether to recommend an organ transplant."

Other U.S. transplant centers have similar policies or are in the process of adopting them, Mr. Weaver said. 

The health system's policy garnered attention Oct. 5 when Colorado state Rep. Tim Geitner said it denied a patient a kidney transplant because she was not vaccinated against COVID-19. Mr. Geitner shared a letter he said the patient received from UCHealth's transplant center. It said she would be inactivated on the kidney transplant waiting list and had 30 days to get vaccinated. If not, she should be removed from the list. 

The United Network for Organ Sharing, the national network that coordinates the country's organ donations, does not create the requirements for listing and removing candidates. Transplant centers decide that individually, a spokesperson for the network told the Post

There are more than 100,000 people in the U.S. currently on the transplant waiting list


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