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Hospital refusing heart transplant for patient who won't get COVID-19 vaccine

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A 31-year-old man in need of a heart transplant in Boston cannot get one because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

DJ Ferguson refuses to get the shot, according to WBZ, making him ineligible due to Brigham and Women’s Hospital policy, as health experts agree that being vaccinated is necessary for the procedure.

“The organs are scarce, we are not going to distribute them to someone who has a poor chance of living when others who are vaccinated have a better chance post-surgery of surviving,” Dr. Arthur Caplan, who runs Medical Ethics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine told the TV station.

Ferguson is a father of two children with another baby on the way. His family is looking for any and all options while there’s still time, but support his decision to not get vaccinated.

There are multiple reasons why patients need to get vaccinated before a transplant, according to Northwestern School of Medicine. First, the experts said that heart transplant recipients are high risk for diseases like the flu and pneumonia. This is the same for COVID, which can kill someone who received transplants unvaccinated.

Second, in rare cases, viruses like hepatitis B can be passed on through blood transfusions or by transplanted organs.

And third, after a heart transplant, patients take anti-rejection medications to prevent their immune system from rejecting their new heart. These medications increases the risk of infection, since the immune system usually fights disease. They can also prevent a body from having a positive response to vaccines, so it’s important to be up-to-date on them before surgery, the school said.

“And like many other transplant programs in the United States – the COVID-19 vaccine is one of several vaccines and lifestyle behaviors required for transplant candidates in the Mass General Brigham system in order to create both the best chance for a successful operation and also the patient’s survival after transplantation,” Brigham and Women’s told WBZ.

Still, Ferguson is steadfast in his decision to not get the COVID vaccine.

“I think my boy is fighting pretty damn courageously and he has integrity and principles he really believes in and that makes me respect him all the more,” his father David Ferguson told the TV station.


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