Colorado woman to no longer receive kidney transplant after not getting COVID-19 vaccine

A Colorado woman will no longer be receiving a kidney transplant after she confirmed that she would not be getting the COVID-19 vaccine, violating the hospital system UCHealth's vaccination protocol, The Associated Press reported on Friday.

Leilani Lutali, a born-again Christian, told the AP she objected to the use of fetal cell lines in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“As a Christian, I can’t support anything that has to do with abortion of babies, and the sanctity of life for me is precious,” Lutali said.

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According to UCLA Health, fetal line cells were used in Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccine testing to see if their vaccines were effective, while Johnson & Johnson used fetal line cells in its vaccine’s development and production.

The AP noted that the cells used today are not the original ones that were first taken from fetal tissue but clones. 

The Aurora, Colo.-based UCHealth told The Hill in a statement earlier this week that in “almost all situations” transplants and living donors were required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 “in addition to meeting other health requirements and receiving additional vaccinations.”

Dan Weaver, a spokesperson for UCHealth, explained that the studies have indicated the mortality rate for transplants who contract the virus are high.

"One broad study found kidney transplant patients who contracted COVID-19 had a 21% mortality rate. Other studies found mortality rates ranging from 18% to 32% for transplant recipients who acquired COVID-19. For comparison, the CDC says the current mortality rate for everyone who has tested positive is 1.6%," Weaver said in a statement. "This is why it is essential that both the recipient and the living donor be vaccinated and take other precautions prior to undergoing transplant surgery."

Weaver also noted that transplant patients have previously been subject to other requirements.

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"Transplant centers across the nation, including the UCHealth Transplant Center, have specific requirements in place to protect patients both during and after surgery. For example, patients may be required to receive vaccinations including hepatitis B, MMR and others," he said.

"Patients may also be required to avoid alcohol, stop smoking, or prove they will be able to continue taking their anti-rejection medications long after their transplant surgery. These requirements increase the likelihood that a transplant will be successful and the patient will avoid rejection," he continued.