Image by Getty Images

The Colorado healthcare system UCHealth is under fire for a new policy in which it will only give organ transplants to patients who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Colorado State Representative Tim Geitner criticized the new rules when he said that an unvaccinated woman reached out to him after being told she would be denied a kidney transplant unless she got vaccinated within 30 days, The Washington Post reports. UCHealth says it made the decision to ensure that its scarce organs go to patients most likely to survive, entering thorny territory in which healthcare providers have to choose who does and doesn’t get life-saving care depending on what’s become a politically-charged vaccination status.

Though WaPo couldn’t verify the woman’s story, UCHealth did tell the publication that it’s adopted the policy for “almost all situations,” adding that similar policies are becoming increasingly common at hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the country.

The policy, though controversial given the heated politicization of COVID vaccines and vaccination status, isn’t unheard of. It’s common for anyone getting an organ transplant to have to follow a long list of terms and conditions in order to get the procedure, WaPo notes, and that often includes getting various vaccinations.

In this case, UCHealth spokesperson Dan Weaver pointed out that COVID is particularly deadly for kidney transplant recipients, with a mortality rate between 20 and 30 percent. Therefore, the decision to only give kidneys to vaccinated patients, in blunt terms, is meant to keep precious transplantable organs from going to waste.

“An organ transplant is a unique surgery that leads to a lifetime of specialized management to ensure an organ is not rejected, which can lead to serious complications, the need for a subsequent transplant surgery, or even death,” Weaver told WaPo. “Physicians must consider the short- and long-term health risks for patients as they consider whether to recommend an organ transplant.”