Ohio woman with stage 4 liver disease denied lifesaving transplant surgery over vax requirement

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Fox News 13 October, 2021 - 11:22am 4 views

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Top Ohio hospitals requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for transplant candidates, donors

Fox Business 13 October, 2021 - 02:10pm

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UMass Memorial Health Care president and CEO Dr. Eric Dickson describes how hospital vaccine mandates could worsen staff shortage problems.

Two of the largest hospitals in Northeast Ohio will now require their transplant candidates and living donors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19

A spokesperson for the Cleveland Clinic told FOX Business that the health and safety of its patients is a "top priority" and emphasized that the "FDA-authorized vaccines have been determined to be safe and effective and are the best way to prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19."

"For the living donor, reducing the risk of a COVID-19 infection around the time of their surgery and recovery is crucial," the spokesperson said. "For the transplant candidate, in addition to a major operation, medications taken after an organ transplant weaken a person’s immune response. Serious complications of COVID-19 are most likely to develop in those individuals who have weakened immune systems, as their body has a reduced ability to fight and recover from infections."

Cleveland Clinic patients currently on the waiting list to receive an organ transplant from a deceased donor have until Nov. 1 to meet the new policy. Patients who do not meet the vaccination deadline will be made inactive on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waitlist. 

"To date, we have not removed anyone from the transplant waiting list because they were not vaccinated," the clinic added. 

Meanwhile, University Hospitals, which will also implement a vaccination policy for patients and living donors in the UH Transplant Institute, did not say when it would officially take effect. 

"In light of recent studies pointing to the risk solid organ recipients and living donors face if they contract COVID-19, the UH Transplant Institute will begin requiring COVID vaccinations for its patient population," a UH spokesperson told FOX Business. "We are following policies in this area already put into place at several other Ohio and national systems, and recommended by national transplant associations."

More than 216 million Americans ages 12 and up, or 76.4% of the population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while more than 187 million, or 66% of the population, have been fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, over 7.7 million Americans have received a booster dose. 

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Ohio woman with stage 4 liver disease denied lifesaving transplant surgery over vax requirement

KRON4 13 October, 2021 - 11:22am

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An Ohio woman was denied a lifesaving liver transplant due to her not being vaccinated against the coronavirus.

"I don’t think they do care," Michelle Vitullo told WJW, after the Cleveland Clinic indefinitely cancelled her liver transplant surgery. "I feel bad because my grandkids, they say, ‘Grandma, we’re praying for you to get better.’ It breaks my heart because now I have to tell them I may not get better."

Michelle has been battling stage 4 liver disease for years and had been receiving care from doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, the outlet reported. She and her husband of 47 years, Jim Vitullo, say they made sweeping changes to their lives in order for Michelle to receive the care.  

"They had us sign an agreement that we would live within one hour of the Cleveland Clinic, I had to quit my job because of all the visits, ended up sleeping literally hundreds of days in my car in the carport there because of the expense,"  Jim recounted.

After extensive testing, they found that their daughter, Angela Green, was a match to Michelle, which elated the family. 

Michelle’s health was stabilized and a surgery date for the end of September was set. But that all soon changed.  

"We were told to get ready," Green told WJW. "Then we get the news we were taken off the list and we can’t do it without the vaccine and it was heartbreaking."

The entire family is against getting the vaccine, citing religious reasons and previous health problems. 

"We’ve heard of adverse reactions like blood clotting and heart problems," added Angela,  "Those are not supposed to happen from a vaccine and we don’t feel comfortable taking on that many risks."

"To us, it’s a big mistake. It’s against our beliefs," Jim added.

Two of the Cleveland area’s largest hospital systems, the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, require patients be vaccinated against the virus ahead of an organ transplant, WJW previously reported

Michelle and her family are now searching for another hospital to perform the surgery. 

The Cleveland Clinic told Fox News in a statement that "health and safety of our patients is our top priority."

"Cleveland Clinic has recently developed safety protocols for solid organ transplantation that require COVID-19 vaccination to be an active transplant candidate or living donor. Vaccination is particularly important in these patients for their safety.  Living donation for organ transplantation has been a life-saving treatment, but it is not without risks to the donor.  For the living donor, reducing the risk of a COVID-19 infection around the time of their surgery and recovery is crucial," the statement continued. 

"For the transplant candidate, in addition to a major operation, medications taken after an organ transplant weaken a person’s immune response. Serious complications of COVID-19 are most likely to develop in those individuals who have weakened immune systems, as their body has a reduced ability to fight and recover from infections. The FDA-authorized vaccines have been determined to be safe and effective and are the best way to prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19."

The Cleveland Clinic also noted that no one on the waiting list for an organ transplant has been removed due to not being vaccinated, and that "the vaccination is to prevent severe illness or death from COVID-19."

A similar story recently unfolded in Colorado, where a woman with stage 5 renal failure was denied a kidney transplant due to her and her donor being unvaccinated.

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