COVID-19 immunization status is deciding who gets care in some cases, according to a disturbing report from the Washington Post.
What are the details?
UCHealth, a Colorado-based hospital system, is denying organ transplants to unvaccinated patients in "almost all situations."
"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," a spokesperson for UCHealth said in a statement to The Hill.
UCHealth explained that patients who receive an organ transplant are at "significant risk for COVID-19" and stated that the mortality rate for transplant patients who are infected with the coronavirus is between 18% and 32%.
"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," the health system's statement explained. "Surgeries may be postponed until patients take all required precautions in order to give them the best chance at positive outcomes."
The rules made headlines on Tuesday after Rep. Tim Geitner (R-Colo.) announced that the health system denied a kidney transplant to an area woman because she did not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
In a statement, Geitner called the practice "disgusting."
He shared a letter that he said the unnamed patient reportedly received last week from the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.
In its letter, the health system said:
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.
What else do we know about this?
The Post report noted that the health system "declined to discuss particular patients" due to federal guidelines.
The health system on Tuesday, however, confirmed that "nearly all of its transplant recipients and organ donors must get vaccinated against the coronavirus."
Dan Weaver, a spokesperson for UCHealth, said the health system isn't the only one making such decisions in the United States, and pointed out that certain conditions on meeting the requirements for organ transplants — including smoking cessation and more — are nothing new.
"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," Weaver said. "Physicians must consider the short- and long-term health risks for patients as they consider whether to recommend an organ transplant."
Weaver did not state what might exempt a patient from getting the vaccine.