Colorado hospital: No vaccine, no organ transplant “in almost all situations”

Outraged state GOP Rep. Tim Geitner shared on Facebook Live that a woman he knows was been denied — for now — a kidney transplant surgery at University of Colorado Hospital because she is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Falcon Republican said Tuesday it was “incredibly frustrating, incredibly sad, incredibly disgusting,” and said the El Paso County woman seeking the transplant has a donor lined up.

UCHealth wouldn’t comment on any specific patient’s situation, but it did confirm that vaccination is a requirement for organ transplant patients “in almost all situations.” Hospital spokesman Dan Weaver said it’s common for transplant patients to be asked to meet a variety of conditions before, during and after surgery — and that predates the pandemic.


“For example,” Weaver wrote in an email to The Denver Post, “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.”

The letter Geitner shared states that the El Paso County patient will be removed from the hospital’s active transplant list if she does not get at least her first vaccine dose by late October.

Weaver added that transplant patients who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 face a much higher mortality rate — between 20% and 30%, he said, compared to under 2% among the general population for those who’ve tested positive for the virus.

The Denver Post reached out to four other hospital companies to ask whether they have comparable policies, but none had responded as of 4 p.m.

It is considered ethical for doctors to take into account a patient’s likelihood of survival in the allocation of transplant resources, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

To UCHealth, that means keeping people alive, Weaver said.

“Patients who have received a transplanted organ are at significant risk from COVID-19,” he wrote. 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.”

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