Kidney Transplant Candidate Chooses to Not Get Vaccinated And Moves to Inactive Wait List

A Colorado kidney transplant candidate has refused to get vaccinated for Covid-19 and has therefore been moved to the inactive wait list for the procedure.

Leilani Lutali, 56, a late-stage kidney disease patient from Colorado Springs, Colorado, learned in a Sept. 28 letter from UCHealth in Denver that if she didn’t begin a Covid vaccine series within 30 days, she would lose her spot on the transplant waiting list. Both she and her donor, Jaimee Fougner, 45, of Peyton, Colorado, refused to get vaccinated, citing religious objections and uncertainty about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.

UCHealth in Denver began requiring Covid vaccinations for transplant patients in late August, citing the American Society of Transplantation’s recommendation in August that “all solid organ transplant recipients should be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2.”

The immune systems of transplant patients are artificially suppressed following transplant surgery to keep their bodies from rejecting a new organ. This puts the patient at “extreme risk” of severe illness if they contract a COVID-19 infection, with mortality rates estimated between 20-30%. For the same reason, those transplant patients who get COVID-19 vaccines after surgery may fail to mount a strong immune response.

The Colorado woman now hopes to take her quest for a transplant to Texas where several hospitals say they don’t require COVID-19 vaccines for patients.

Over 100,000 candidates are waiting for organ transplants in the U.S., and transplant centers take into account several factors along with medical criteria, such as financial means and social support, to insure that transplant donor organs do not fail.