Mike Ganim is fully vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19. But his donor is not.
Ganim and his wife told WKYC they were told on Oct. 8 that the Cleveland Clinic started a new policy that requires both organ donors and recipients to be fully vaccinated.
“It’s just wrong in so many ways,” Debi Ganim said. “All because of a policy that was just decided.”
“We were blindsided,” Sue George, the donor, told the outlet.
She said she’s not getting a COVID-19 vaccine due to medical, religious, and freedom reasons.
“We have one goal here and that’s to get Mike a kidney. So, it may come down to looking for another donor,” George told News 5 Cleveland.
Asked about what happened, a Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman told The Epoch Times in an email that the clinic did recently implement a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for donors and recipients of solid organ transplants.
“Vaccination is particularly important in these patients for their safety. Living donation for organ transplantation has been a life-saving treatment, but it is not without risks to the donor. For the living donor, reducing the risk of a COVID-19 infection around the time of their surgery and recovery is crucial. We continually strive to minimize risk to our living donors, and vaccination is an important component to ensure the safest approach and optimal outcomes for donors,” she said.
“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. The FDA-authorized vaccines have been determined to be safe and effective and are the best way to prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19,” she added.
No one at the Cleveland Clinic has been removed from the transplant waiting list as of yet for not being vaccinated.
The rejection comes after Leilani Lutali, a Colorado woman, was informed a kidney transplant was no longer proceeding because neither she nor her donor were vaccinated.
The case drew nationwide attention and cast the spotlight on evolving transplant policies.
Vaccination policies are in place at facilities across the country, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit that manages the U.S. organ transplantation system. They are not required.
A study (pdf) published in July found that less than 7 percent of the 92 transplant centers who responded to a survey reported inactivating patients who were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
“Very few centers are requiring COVID-19 vaccination prior to transplantation despite early evidence suggesting reduced immunogenicity in transplant patients on immunosuppression,” researchers said.
The University of Colorado Hospital, which was slated to perform Lutali’s transplant, told news outlets that it is requiring COVID-19 vaccination for almost all organ transplants.
Not all centers have implemented such requirements.
A spokeswoman for the University of Kentucky HealthCare, which runs a transplant center, told The Epoch Times in an email it does not.
“There is not a vaccination requirement in place but we encourage patients to obtain the vaccine both pre and post-transplant,” she said.