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Springs woman faces, no COVID-19 vaccine, no kidney transplant policy

Leilani Lutali and Jaimee Fougner
Posted at 10:50 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 00:50:12-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — A Colorado Springs woman says her kidney transplant suddenly went from a possible match to on-hold because of the COVID-19 vaccine. "For me there are questions that have not yet been answered and until those questions are answered and settled in my mind, I don't want to take the shot," said Leilani Lutali.

Her friend, who is a potential donor, is also against the COVID-19 vaccine. “Mine is for religious reasons,” said Jaimee Fougner. She is a nurse and has been vaccinated for other diseases. Her religious concerns have to do with the way the COVID-19 vaccine was developed.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now required for organ transplants through UCHealth. The policy started late summer based on early research about the potential threat of COVID-19 to transplant patients. Dan Weaver, Vice President of Communications for UCHealth quoted the data in a response to questions about the new policy. He said, “Note the studies below that show roughly 1 in 4 transplant patients who contract COVID-19 will likely die, while the mortality rate among all people in the U.S. who test positive is far lower – roughly 1 in 65.”

Transplant policy and procedures at UCHealth and other medical providers already have strict guidelines. Weaver said this one is in-line with the goal of those protocols. “These requirements increase the likelihood that a transplant will be successful and the patient will avoid rejection.”

Lutali said she asked if COVID-19 was something she needed to worry about back in August and was told no. “Fast forward one month later and that changed when I found out from Jaimee that they’d indicated if either one of us didn’t want to be vaccinated then I would not be on the transplant list.”

Fougner was not yet a definite match, but it was looking like a strong possibility. “Lab tests have all come back in favor of being her transplant donor and we were scheduled to do the final test to confirm that status, and then those tests were cancelled.”

Both women said they have also done research and they know the risk. They question what they think is a vaccine or your life policy. "I feel coerced,” said Lutali, “I feel like my life is being held in their hands in exchange for a shot and the attitude is just take the shot."