Science

Unvaccinated patients are getting kicked off organ transplant waitlists

Transplant recipients must take immune-suppressing drugs, raising risk for COVID. ...
 Close up of a paramedic holding an organ transplant box, Birmingham, on 18 August 2017. A SELFLESS mum risked her life by bravely undergoing a double organ donation for her four-year-old son. Sarah Lamont, from Ballymena, Northern Ireland has donated one of her kidneys to her youngest child, Joe, mere months after surgeons removed a section of her liver to save the boy?s life. Joe?s diseased kidneys were removed when he was just a few days old, and he has been on dialysis ever since. But Sarah?s second incredible gift to her son means Joe might, for the first time, live a life free of almost daily hospital visits and procedures, and be able to go to school. PHOTOGRAPH BY Marcus Hessenberg / Barcroft Images (Photo credit should read Marcus Hessenberg / Barcroft Media via Getty Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Enlarge / Close up of a paramedic holding an organ transplant box, Birmingham, on 18 August 2017. A SELFLESS mum risked her life by bravely undergoing a double organ donation for her four-year-old son. Sarah Lamont, from Ballymena, Northern Ireland has donated one of her kidneys to her youngest child, Joe, mere months after surgeons removed a section of her liver to save the boy?s life. Joe?s diseased kidneys were removed when he was just a few days old, and he has been on dialysis ever since. But Sarah?s second incredible gift to her son means Joe might, for the first time, live a life free of almost daily hospital visits and procedures, and be able to go to school. PHOTOGRAPH BY Marcus Hessenberg / Barcroft Images (Photo credit should read Marcus Hessenberg / Barcroft Media via Getty Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images) (credit: Getty | Barcroft)

A growing number of medical facilities across the country are directing coveted organ donations to patients who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, pushing people who remain unvaccinated down or even off of transplantation waitlists.

The thinking behind this move is simple: With transmission of the pandemic coronavirus still high in the US, unvaccinated transplant candidates face an extremely high risk of COVID-19, which poses a danger to them and the imperils the usefulness of the scarce, life-saving organs.

Receiving a transplanted organ requires patients to take immunosuppressant drugs that will prevent their bodies from rejecting the new organ as foreign. But this immune suppression also makes the recipients highly susceptible to becoming infected with the pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and developing severe COVID-19. Some experts estimate that transplant recipients’ risk of dying from COVID-19 is as high as 20 to 30 percent.

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