A US hospital has rejected a patient for a heart transplant because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, his family has said.
DJ Ferguson, 31, spent almost 50 days in hospital and is now in the end stage of heart failure and needs a transplant to survive.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital policy states that he is no longer eligible because he did not receive a coronavirus vaccination – something his family said he refused to do.
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“The transplant board will not be actively listing him due to his vaccination status,” Mr Ferguson’s family said on a GoFundMe charity fundraising page.
His family fear the vaccine will cause his heart to swell and put him at “extremely high risk of sudden death”.
“We are under pressure to pick a move that could kill him. It’s not just a political issue,” they added.
“People need to have a choice! People need to realize that there are others who are at high risk from getting this vaccine, and it COULD kill them.”
The father-of-two, who has another child on the way, suffers from a hereditary heart condition and was first taken to hospital over Thanksgiving weekend in November with suspected pneumonia.
“Brigham told us he had to have the vaccine to accept a heart,” his mother Tracey Ferguson said.
“He’s not an anti-vaxx person. He’s got all his shots, but there are side effects given his condition, and he’s a man, he’s made up his mind.”
She added: “He said to the doctor, ‘Are you really going to let me die for one shot?
“All my kids, they’re all vaccinated, he did his own homework and made his own decision.”
His family considered transporting him to another hospital, but said he was currently too ill to be moved.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital said it could not comment on individual patients due to US laws.
“Our Mass General Brigham Health System requires multiple CDC-recommended vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, and lifestyle behaviors for transplant candidates to create both the best chance of successful operation and to optimize the patient’s survival after the transplant, since his immune system is drastically suppressed,” the hospital said in a statement.
Dr. Arthur Caplan, chief medical ethics officer at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told CBS News that the vaccine was needed for this type of procedure.
“After any transplant, kidney, heart, whatever, your immune system is shut down,” he said.
“The flu could kill you, a cold could kill you, COVID could kill you. Organs are rare, we are not going to distribute them to someone who is unlikely to live when others who are vaccinated have better post-surgery chance of survival.”