A Colorado health system is requiring “almost all” organ transplant patients to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before they receive their transplant.
Colorado state Rep. Tim Geitner said in a Facebook Live video on Tuesday that a woman shared a letter with him from UCHealth saying that they would not perform a kidney transplant on her until she received a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Republican state lawmaker tweeted a copy of the letter, which states that “if your decision is to refuse COVID vaccination you will be removed from the kidney transplant list.” It also states that the woman has 30 days to start a coronavirus “vaccination series.”
UCHealth confirmed to USA TODAY that “in almost all situations, transplant recipients and living donors” within the system “are now required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in addition to meeting other health requirements.”
The health system noted that transplant centers and medical providers often have requirements for transplant patients, such as receiving other kinds of vaccinations or avoiding alcohol.
“These requirements increase the likelihood that a transplant will be successful and the patient will avoid rejection,” UCHealth said in a statement.
The health system added that, for transplant patients who contract COVID-19, the mortality rate can range from approximately 20% to over 30%, significantly higher than the general population.
Geitner, who criticized the health system for their policy, hid the name of the patient who received the letter in his tweet.
But a woman with stage 5 renal failure told CBS Denver that she and a woman who agreed to donate a kidney to her were informed that they had to be vaccinated in order for UCHealth to perform the transplant.
Jaimee Fougner, who said she is the donor, cited religious reasons for not getting the vaccine, while Leilani Lutali, who said she is the recipient, claimed that there are unknowns associated with the inoculation and has also expressed religious concerns.
“I said I’ll sign a medical waiver. I have to sign a waiver anyway for the transplant itself, releasing them from anything that could possibly go wrong,” Lutali told the outlet. “It’s surgery, it’s invasive. I sign a waiver for my life. I’m not sure why I can’t sign a waiver for the COVID shot.”
Health officials recommend that all eligible Americans should receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals who have had organ transplants can be more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.