EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — After a man was denied a heart transplant for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine at a Boston Hospital, it’s raising questions on requirements for patients here in the RGV.
“We cannot afford doing a kidney transplant for a patient then after a few months the patient gets covid and we lose the patient,” said Dr. Mourad Alsabbagh the Medical Director at DHR Health Transplant Institute.
Receiving an organ donation can be a lifesaver but Dr. Alsabbagh explains how COVID-19 is changing the eligibility for transplant patients.
“No patient will go to the hospital for kidney transplant, there’s no patient without getting the covid test before it’s done,” he said. “We will not put any patient on the list if he or she did not get the full vaccine.”
Dr. Alsabbagh said the decision was made from the recommendations of the CDC and other transplant centers across the U.S. He adds there is a reason why the COVID-19 vaccine is required to get on the transplant list.
“Patients, post kidney transplant or any organ transplant, are immunocompromised which means their immune system is very weak,” said Dr. Alsabbagh.
Research shows patients who are immunocompromised are more at risk of dying from COVID-19. Dr. Alsabbagh said he offers information on the high survival rate with the vaccine to patients who are still hesitant.
“We will not bring this awareness to the patient to convince them to take the vaccine but to show them the data,” he said.
The pandemic also affects the precautions for organ donors and who is eligible to give the gift of life.
“If a person tests positive for covid at the time of their death then they are ineligible to be a donor, someone who had covid in the past but they survived it and they do not test positive they can be an organ donor,” said Edwina Garza, Senior Communications Coordinator for the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance.
Garza said those extra measures being taken impact the turnout of those transplant surgeries but adds, for them, vaccination status is optional.
“On the donation side it does not matter if you are a vaccinated person or if you are unvaccinated, we have had donors who were vaccinated and who were not vaccinated,” said Garza.
While requirements differ for organ donors and transplant patients, doctors are still encouraging everyone to get the vaccine in hopes of increasing a person’s chance of a successful surgery.