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Woman Denied Life-Saving Kidney Transplant Because She Is Unvaccinated

"Doctor or nurse filling a syringe with Covid-19 Vaccine" by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A woman with stage 5 renal failure is being denied a kidney transplant at the University of Colorado Hospital because she and her donor have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to CBS Denver.

Jaimee Fougner, who is trying to donate a kidney to Leilani Lutali, said she has not received the COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons. Lutali said she has not received the vaccine because there are too many unknown variables.

The women, who met in a Bible study, were not aware of the requirement until receiving a letter on Sept. 28 from the UCHealth Transplant Center that stated the following:

“The transplant team at University of Colorado Hospital has determined that it is 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.”

“At the end of August, they confirmed that there was no COVID shot needed at that time,” Lutali told CBS Denver. “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.”

The letter quickly gathered attention on social media, including from Colorado State Rep. Tim Geitner who said, “The understanding is basically … conform to this demand. Take this COVID vaccine or otherwise you will be denied a life-saving procedure.”

In response to the backlash, UCHealth suggested that denying the life-saving surgery was to protect transplant recipients from the “extreme risk” COVID-19 poses to them.

“For transplant patients who contract COVID-19, the mortality rate ranges from about 20% to more than 30%,” UCHealth said in a statement to CBS Denver. “This shows the extreme risk that COVID-19 poses to transplant recipients after their surgeries.”

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