A woman in Ohio who refused the Covid-19 vaccine has been denied a liver transplant unless she agrees to be vaccinated.
Michelle Vitullo, 65, suffers from end stage liver disease and was scheduled to receive a transplant from her daughter Angela Green at the Cleveland Clinic this month.
The family say they oppose Covid-19 vaccines for religious reasons and because they have heard reports of adverse reactions.
“It was a dream come true,” Ms Green told WJW. “My family were so excited … then we get the news that we were taken off the list and we can’t do it without vaccinations, and it was heartbreaking.”
Ms Vitullo’s husband Jim said: “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.”
Ms Vitullo is now hoping to find another hospital willing to perform the life-saving surgery.
A spokeswoman for the Cleveland Clinic confirmed that it requires organ donors and recipients to be vaccinated against Covid-19 “for the safety of both”, but declined to discuss Ms Vitullo’s case, citing patient privacy.
She said that the clinic had not yet removed anyone from the transplant waiting list because they were not vaccinated. Patients awaiting organs from dead donors have until 1 November to get the jab.
Hospitals across the US have begun turning down vaccine refuseniks this year after the American Society of Transplantation and the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation recommended that all transplant patients should be vaccinated.
A woman in Colorado who said the vaccine was against her born-again Christian beliefs was told she could not get a kidney transplant. Another Cleveland Clinic with anti-vaccine beliefs had his surgery cancelled last Friday.
Transplant recipients usually take drugs that suppress their immune systems to prevent them from rejecting the new organ, which in turn leaves them acutely vulnerable to coronavirus.
The Cleveland Clinic said: “Living donation for organ transplantation has been a life-saving treatment, but it is not without risks. For the living donor, reducing the risk of a Covid-19 infection around the time of their surgery and recovery is crucial.
“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.”