A terminally ill man with a prior COVID-19 infection has been taken off a Virginia hospital's "active" transplant list because he is unvaccinated against the virus, Fox News reported this week.
What are the details?
Shamgar Connors, 42, suffers from Stage 5 focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a rare and deadly disease in which scar tissue develops on the small parts of the kidneys that filter waste from the blood. Though at present his scarred and irreparably damaged kidneys are performing well enough for his survival, Connors knows that his disease is terminal and the only ultimate solution is a transplant.
But when it comes time for Connors to receive a transplant, he may not be able to. The husband and father of two was reportedly informed by a doctor at the University of Virginia Hospital recently that he cannot move forward in the transplant process until he gets a COVID-19 vaccine.
What makes things especially frustrating for Connors is the fact that he contracted COVID-19 during the Delta wave last year. That prior infection likely affords him some level of immunity against the disease. But that possibility doesn't factor into UVA Hospital's vaccine requirement.
In a recorded call with Dr. Karen Warburton on Jan. 6, Connors was pressed on whether he would be willing to get the vaccine. When he answered "no," Warburton moved to have him remain on the transplant list but in an "inactive" status — meaning he can't receive a transplant unless something were to change.
UVA denying me a kidney transplant because i refuse to get the vaxx youtu.be
"I just had COVID, so I don't — so why would I get the vaccine?" Connors claimed on the phone, but Warburton didn't budge.
"You may have had Delta, and that may not protect you against the Omicron variant, which is what we're seeing now," the doctor explained. "So, our policy is that in order to have people active on the transplant list and get a transplant, you need to be fully vaccinated."
At one point, Connors claimed that he would "rather die of kidney failure" than get the vaccine.
Warburton assessed that it "may be a crossroads" for Connors as the two briefly debated the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
Connors later told Fox News that he had been active on the transplant list after starting dialysis about two years before. He added that he is not opposed to vaccines, in general, but is wary of the COVID-19 vaccines and their side effects, in particular.
Connors is the latest in a growing list of sick patients who have been denied organ transplants due to their vaccination status since the start of the pandemic.
Just this week, reports surfaced about a Boston hospital removing a dying patient from its heart transplant list because he is unvaccinated.
Last August, a hospital in Washington state similarly removed multiple patients from its organ wait list over vaccination status. Then in October, the Cleveland Clinic stopped a lifesaving kidney transplant due to a vaccine policy that had gone into effect only days before.
In response to Fox News, a spokesperson for UVA Health refused to confirm whether vaccination is a requirement for transplants but insisted that each candidate is evaluated on a "wide range" of factors.
"Unfortunately, the need for transplants far exceeds the availability of donated organs – at any given time, tens of thousands of Americans are on a transplant waiting list. Because of that shortage, every transplant center carefully evaluates every potential recipient based on a wide range of factors to ensure they are a good candidate for transplant surgery," the spokesperson told the outlet.
Fox News reported that Connors was contacted by Kirk McKenzie, an attorney who is allegedly gathering similar cases for a lawsuit.