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UW Health to require COVID-19 vaccination for those awaiting organ transplants

"It's like a punch in the gut for me."
Posted at 10:32 AM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 11:32:44-05

MILWAUKEE — A new COVID-19 vaccine mandate will soon go into effect at UW Health for those looking to get an organ transplant.

This leaves patients with one of two options: either get the shot or find another place to get a potentially life-saving operation.

It's been almost a year since Cory Lee found out that he had Polycystic kidney disease, which is an incurable genetic disorder that often leads to end-stage kidney failure.

Cory Lee
It's been almost a year since Cory Lee found out that he had Polycystic kidney disease, which is an incurable genetic disorder that often leads to end-stage kidney failure.

The newlywed was preparing to get on the transplant list at UW Health this year. That was until the Madison hospital announced that it was making a change to its transplant policy.

"It's kind of like a punch in the gut for me," said Lee.

"It just hurts my heart as a spouse to have to now have one more hurdle in our way of him potentially getting a kidney," said his wife, Amanda.

Cory and Amanda Lee
Cory and Amanda Lee.

On Thursday UW Health announced that it will require patients to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan.14th, 2022, in order to receive a transplant or be put on the wait-list. The hospital cites the greater risk for transplant patients of severe illness or death from the virus.

But Lee says he'll look for a kidney transplant elsewhere.

"You can throw out all the numbers at me about the science this and the science that. To me, it's just too new," said Lee.

According to UW Health, those on the wait-list who aren't vaccinated by the deadline will have their status changed to inactive. Something that Tiffany DeLorme, who's already had two kidney transplants in her lifetime, didn't want to happen as she waits for a third donor. She got her first vaccine dose Wednesday.

"I was supposed to be ready to go and then I called and my coordinator had said that they now mandated the COVID-`19 shot. For me personally, I wasn't going to get it. I just didn't feel comfortable. But I really hate being on dialysis, it's really rough for me. I have two kids that are really young and I just really want to get a transplant and I know that's the only way that I could get on the list," said DeLorme.

UW Health's policy will go into effect starting next Monday.