A Colorado Woman Who Refused COVID-19 Vaccine Because of Her Faith Is Denied Kidney Transplant

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

A Colorado woman with stage 5 kidney disease was denied a kidney transplant because she would not get a COVID-19 vaccine as she decided to choose her faith over her health needs, according to a published report. 

Leilani Lutali, a born-again Christian, is aware of the risks involved if she doesn’t get the transplant but said she could not agree to be vaccinated because of the role that stem cells have played in the development of vaccines, according to the Associated Press.

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

Despite Lutali’s views, many major religious denominations have no objections to the COVID-19 vaccines. The Vatican’s doctrine said it was “morally acceptable,” for Catholics to receive the COVID-19 vaccine that are based on research that it uses cells derived from aborted fetuses, according to the AP. In the spring, Pope Francis became fully vaccinated with the Pfizer shot and told Italian broadcaster Canale 5 "anti-vaxxers" are living in inexplicable "suicidal denial," according to a previously reported CBS News story.

However, the debate to vaccinate or not to vaccinate — even when a person’s life may be in jeopardy — has sparked varied heated discussions about whether cell lines derived from fetal tissue have played a role, directly or indirectly, in the research and development of various vaccines and medicines, the AP reported.

UCHealth Hospital spokesperson, Dan Weaver said UCHealth requires transplant recipients to be vaccinated before a life-saving procedure because recipients are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 as well as being hospitalized and dying from the virus, Dayton247Now reported.

The spokesman added that unvaccinated donors could also pass COVID-19 to the recipient even if they initially test negative for the disease, the AP reported.

“Studies have found transplant patients who contract COVID-19 may have a mortality rate of 20% or higher,” Weaver said in the AP report.

Many transplant programs insist that patients get vaccinated for COVID-19 because of their weakened immune systems, according to the American Hospital Association, (AHA) which represents nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, and networks in the United States, the AP report said.

The AHA said it did not have data to share on the issue, nor is it clear how common this type of policy is, the AP reported. 

However, transplant centers in Washington, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Alabama have policies requiring that recipients be vaccinated, according to the AP. The Mayo Clinic and Sentara Healthcare, two of the nation’s largest health care systems, said they “recommend or strongly encourage” vaccinations for transplants, the AP reported. Most recently, the Cleveland Clinic said in a statement that it recently decided to require COVID-19 vaccinations for transplant and donor recipients, the AP noted. 

The University of Alabama Birmingham’s School of Medicine transplant program; however, recommends donors receive a vaccine but does not require for the donation process, according to the AP.

The AP reported that Leilani Lutali hopes to find another hospital that would allow the transplant without a vaccine and is searching in Texas and Florida. Lutali, who believes in the afterlife, said she does not fear dying, and feels hopeful, according to the AP.

“I have hope that something will come along that is something I can live with in terms of my choices,” she said in the AP report.

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