A University of Virginia (UVA) hospital doctor told a patient that a COVID vaccine is a “requirement” to get a kidney transplant. The UVA Health system is keeping the man, Shamgar Connors, “inactive” on the kidney transplant waiting list because he refuses to take the Coronavirus injection. But documents obtained by NATIONAL FILE, including a letter that the UVA Health system sent to U.S. Congressman Rob Wittman, provide some hope for Shamgar Connors. In the documents, the UVA hospital and another university official admitted that the COVID vaccine is not actually required to get a kidney transplant, according to the hospital’s own policy. Thus, the doctor provided false information to the patient.
“In the paperwork the doctor was basically saying I was crazy for not getting a shot,” Shamgar Connors told NATIONAL FILE, referring to female doctor Karen Warburton. “I have to be put in front of a panel to see if I can even be deemed sane enough to get a kidney transplant…Not only do they deny me medical treatment over political B.S., they’re denying me my rights by saying this guy is too crazy to get a kidney transplant.”
Shamgar Connors said that when Virginia U.S. Congressman Rob Wittman wrote a letter to the hospital, the hospital confirmed that the vaccine is not mandatory. “They said the vaccine is not a requirement, it’s just something they take into account,” Connors said. “Why is that even part of the process?”
A UVA Health doctor and UVA associate professor of medicine named Karen Warburton, who works at the UVA Health Transplant Center, made “Progress Notes” for Shamgar Connors on January 6, 2022.
“He has accumulated 2 years and 8 months of waiting time on the blood group 0 waiting list with a 0% PRA. He is currently listed in an inactive status, which means that he continues to accumulate time but is unable to receive calls for organ offers…He recent had Covid-19 and refuses vaccine…,” Warburton wrote in her progress notes.
Warburton listed “Major issues and/or need for further testing,” which include (emphasis added): “Refusal to get Covid-19 vaccine. We discussed at length that this is requirement for active listing.” Warburton then quoted Connors as saying: “I would rather die than have an mRNA vaccine. I can show you hundreds of reports of why this vaccine is killing people.”
Warburton stated: “Overall, Mr. Connors was somewhat difficult to converse with on the phone. His stance on the Covid-19 vaccine is concerning. He demonstrated hostility and a very closed approach to discussion around this issue. He at first cited concerns based on his research of the science, then tried to claim a religious exemption. He also seemed to have little understanding of his own health/medical history, telling me to “look it up” when I had questions. I would want to explore his candidacy from a psychosocial standpoint with our Transplant Social Work team (and remaining members of our team) before we activate him on the list, even if/when he is medically ready.” Here is audio of Warburton telling Connors that “We are requiring it,” referring to the Coronavirus vaccine.
But Warburton falsely told Connors that the vaccine is a “requirement,” as documents prove. Republican U.S. Congressman Rob Wittman of Virginia wrote to the UVA Health system on Shamgar Connors’ behalf, and Wittman was able to get a response that has been obtained by NATIONAL FILE. A UVA Health federal relations official named L. Boyle wrote to Congressman Wittman and stated the following (emphasis added): “Although the UVA Transplant Center does not have a policy mandating COVID-19 vaccination for patients to be eligible for a transplant, it has recently updated its evaluation criteria to address COVID-19 vaccination status as part of the individualized assessment we complete with respect to each transplant candidate. Such approach is in alignment with recommendations from the American Society of Transplantation, American Society of Transplant Surgeons and International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, and with research that has demonstrated that transplant recipients are at a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19 when compared to non-transplant patients. UVA encourages COVID-19 vaccination for its transplant candidates, as it does for all patients seeking care at UVA Health. As the pandemic continues, UVA Health will continue to evaluate alternative treatments and therapies for all of our patients, including those in need of a transplant, to assess the COVID-19 positivity rate in the community to ensure our patients are receiving the care that they need.”
In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the University of Virginia Freedom of Information Act Officer wrote (emphasis added): “The UVA Transplant Center does not have a policy mandating COVID-19 vaccination for patients on the waitlist. Nevertheless, research has demonstrated that transplant recipients are at a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19 when compared to non-transplant patients and, therefore, UVA encourages COVID-19 vaccination for its transplant candidates, as it does for all patients seeking care at UVA Health. This guidance is in alignment with recommendations from the American Society of Transplantation, American Society of Transplant Surgeons and International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation. UVA Health has been working on updates to its existing transplant evaluation criteria, including that which relates to kidney transplant, for over a year, including updating evaluation criteria to address COVID-19 vaccination status as part of the individualized assessment we complete with respect to each transplant candidate.”
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