Mother Denied Liver Transplant Over COVID Vaccine Refusal

A mother in Ohio was denied liver transplant surgery over her refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Michelle Vitullo has stage 4 liver cancer and first began seeing doctors at the Cleveland Clinic in 2019, according to Fox 8 News in Cleveland.

Vitullo's husband, Jim, stressed the sacrifices and commitments their family made so that his wife could undergo the transplant, noting to the local news station that he had to quit his job "because of all the visits," and "ended up sleeping literally hundreds of days" in his car due to the cost of the surgery.

Vitullo recently learned that her daughter, Angela Green, was an exact match for the liver transplant operation and the Cleveland Clinic scheduled the surgery for the end of September.

However, Vitullo and her family are opposed to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine due to religious and medical reasons, which prompted the Cleveland Clinic to cancel the liver transplant surgery.

COVID-19 Vaccine
A mother in Ohio was denied liver transplant surgery over her refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Above, vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered at a drive-up vaccination site in Reno, Nevada, on December 17, 2020. Patrick T. Fallon/Getty

Vitullo's daughter said she was told by the Cleveland Clinic to get ready for the surgery, but two weeks later, the family received news that they were removed from the list because they aren't vaccinated against the coronavirus.

"It was heartbreaking," Green said.

Vitullo's husband said that the COVID-19 vaccine is "against our beliefs," and called the situation "a big mistake."

Green cited incidents of blood clots and "heart problems" as reasons her family has avoided the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Those are not supposed to happen from a vaccine and we don't feel comfortable taking on that many risks," she told Fox 8.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, Cleveland Clinic said, "The health and safety of our patients is our top priority. Cleveland Clinic has recently developed safety protocols for solid organ transplantation that require COVID-19 vaccination to be an active transplant candidate or living donor. Vaccination is particularly important in these patients for their safety."

The statement continued, "For the transplant candidate, in addition to a major operation, medications taken after an organ transplant weaken a person's immune response. Serious complications of COVID-19 are most likely to develop in those individuals who have weakened immune systems, as their body has a reduced ability to fight and recover from infections. The FDA-authorized vaccines have been determined to be safe and effective and are the best way to prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19."

The Cleveland Clinic also noted that "For organ transplantation using a living donor, which involves the living donor undergoing a scheduled surgery, we are requiring COVID-19 vaccination for both donor and recipient before we can proceed with the surgery, for the safety of both."

A somewhat similar situation occurred earlier this week when the Cleveland Clinic canceled a man's kidney transplant surgery because the man's donor was not vaccinated against the coronavirus.