Boston man removed from heart transplant list for refusing to get COVID-19 vaccine, family says

Heart transplant COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 12:50 PM, Jan 25, 2022

A Boston man says his son has been removed from the organ transplant waiting list because he has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dave Ferguson says his 31-year-old son, DJ, is fighting for his life at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and in desperate need of a heart transplant.

"His heart has deteriorated so much that it won't work on its own," Ferguson said.

However, Ferguson said his son was at the front of the line to receive a new heart, but he is no longer eligible because he has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

"My son has gone to the edge of death to stick to his guns," Ferguson said.

Ferguson added that he's not interested in getting vaccinated moving forward.

"It's kind of against his basic principles," Ferguson said. "He doesn't really believe in it."

In a statement, Brigham and Women's Hospital said it's required for transplant candidates to be vaccinated to ensure successful procedures.

"Like many other transplant programs in the United States, the COVID-19 vaccine is one of several vaccines and lifestyle behaviors required for transplant candidates in the Mass General Brigham system in order to create both the best chance for a successful operation and also the patient's survival after transplantation," the hospital said.

Dr. Arthur Caplan, the head of medical ethics at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, reiterated that being vaccinated is necessary for transplant procedures.

"Post any transplant, kidney, heart, whatever, your immune system is shut off," Caplan said. "The flu could kill, a cold could kill you, COVID could kill you. The organs are scarce, and they are not going to distribute them to someone who has a poor chance of living when others who are vaccinated have a better chance post-surgery of surviving."

The Ferguson family told WBZ-TV in Boston that they're thinking about transferring DJ to another hospital, but he may be too weak to move. He's also eligible to receive a mechanical pump to keep his heart working if he chooses not to get vaccinated.

The family added that they're happy with the care from doctors and nurses, but they disagree with the policy that requires COVID-19 vaccinations for heart transplants.

"It's his body; it's his choice," Ferguson said.