In the United States, several medical establishments are directing organ donations to patients who have been vaccinated against Covid-19, relegating the unvaccinated to the bottom of the transplant waiting lists.
Unvaccinated people excluded from waiting lists for organ transplants
The story of Leilani Lutali (56) from Colorado recently made headlines. A few weeks ago, the UCHealth health facility in Denver refused to have a kidney transplant for her because she was not vaccinated. In a letter, doctors informed her that she would be listed as “inactivated” on the transplant waiting list if she did not receive a first dose of the vaccine within thirty days. Asked by the Associated Press, the American said she opposed vaccines on religious grounds.
This woman’s case is just one example among many registered in more than 250 organ transplant centers across the country. The idea behind this position is simple: with transmission of the pandemic coronavirus still high in the United States, candidates for unvaccinated transplants are facing an extremely high risk of Covid-19.
Receiving a transplanted organ requires patients to take immunosuppressive drugs that will prevent their body from rejecting said organ. As a result, this immune suppression also makes recipients very susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2. According to some experts cited by Ars Technica, the risk for transplant recipients of dying from Covid-19 may reach 20 to 30%. However, doctors cannot afford to “waste” organs.
Prioritize people with the best chance of survival
This is not the first time that this type of argument has been put forward in order to prioritize the people who will receive organs. according to the chances of survival. For a long time, smokers have been asked to stop smoking for six months before receiving lung transplants or alcoholics and drug addicts to refrain from consuming alcohol and drugs before receiving a new liver. Requiring a full vaccination schedule against infectious diseases is also very common.
Also, for many establishments, favoring people vaccinated against Covid-19 is quite normal, given the scarcity of available organs and the availability of anti-covid vaccines.
” We mandate hepatitis and flu vaccines, and no one has a problem with that“Dr Kapilkumar Patel, director of the lung transplant program at Tampa General Hospital, Florida, told KHN. ” And now we have this vaccine that can save lives and impact the post-transplant recovery phase. And we got this huge outcry from the public“.
In addition, the establishments only follow the recommendations. On August 13, members of the American Society of Transplantation and the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation (ISHLT) indeed issued a joint statement calling for ” all recipients of a solid organ transplant are vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2“.
Also, more and more transplant programs adopt this policy, but not yet all. Leilani Lutali, mentioned at the beginning of the article, now turns to Texas or Florida, more flexible on anti-Covid vaccination campaigns.