A Colorado woman with stage 5 renal failure says she had a kidney donor lined up—but was told by the health system that the transplant wasn't going to happen unless both parties were vaccinated against COVID-19. Leilani Lutani says she hasn't been vaccinated because there are "too many unknowns," CBS Denver reports. Potential donor Jaimee Fougner, who met Lutani in Bible study class less than a year ago, has cited religious reasons for not being vaccinated. Lutani says she was recently informed that a new UCHealth policy requires both donor and recipient be vaccinated.
Lutani says a Sept. 28 letter from UCHealth told her she and Fougner had 30 days to begin the vaccination process. The letter said that if she refuses to be vaccinated, she will be removed from the transplant list. UCHealth says that while privacy laws prevent it from discussing specific patients, almost all transplant recipients and donors are required to be vaccinated, and other transplant centers have similar policies, the Washington Post reports. "For transplant patients who contract COVID-19, the mortality rate ranges from about 20% to more than 30%," the system said in a statement. "This shows the extreme risk that COVID-19 poses to transplant recipients after their surgeries."
UCHealth spokesman Dan Weaver says transplant centers have long required patients to get other vaccinations and it is routine for patients to be asked take other steps including stopping smoking to ensure the transplant is a success. Republican state Rep. Tim Geitner, who calls the COVID vaccine policy "disgusting," says he has repeatedly asked the system to make an exception for Lulati, but "there is very little that UCHealth is prepared to do." CBS Denver reports that the two unvaccinated women have not found a hospital in Colorado willing to perform the transplant and are now looking at options in other states. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)