A Colorado hospital system is requiring COVID-19 vaccination for organ transplants in almost all situations, but at two local hospitals, that's not the case.
At Jackson Health System, the transplant team strongly encourages transplant patients to get the COVID 19 vaccine, but right now it is not part of the criteria to get an organ transplant.
"Some data supports that vaccination in certain organ transplant patients can prevent or at least prevent severe disease," Dr. Yoichiro Natori, Program Director of Transplant Infectious Diseases at the Miami Transplant Institute.
At the Miami Transplant Institute, doctors recommend transplant recipients get the COVID-19 vaccine before their surgery.
"The rate of the success of the vaccination should be much higher prior to transplant as opposed to post transplantation, because after transplantation, we give anti-rejection medications which makes the success rate much lower and lower,” Dr. Yoichiro Natori.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, more than 106,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant.
Because organs are a limited resource, hospital systems often have eligibility requirements for transplant candidates.
In the case of UC Health in Colorado, a new requirement has been added for both donors and recipients- COVID 19 vaccination.
The Colorado hospital system said in part, “Among the general population, for those who test positive, the mortality (death) rate is about 1.6%. For transplant patients who contract COVID-19, the mortality rate ranges from about 20% to more than 30%. This shows the extreme risk that COVID-19 poses to transplant recipients after their surgeries."
At Jackson Health in Miami, there are currently 14 transplant patients who have breakthrough COVID infections.
Dr. Natori says regardless of vaccination status, their team always analyzes the full picture prior to transplant.
"Let’s say this patient has been waiting for 2 years or 3 years or 4 or 5 and this is the first time for this patient to get a kidney and this person, unfortunately, did not vaccinate, so those kinds of things happen and it is case by case,” said Dr. Natori.
At Memorial Healthcare System in Broward, they are currently not requiring the COVID vaccine for transplant patients, however, they tell NBC 6 they are reviewing their policies to see if they need to implement the requirement in the near future.