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Geisinger requiring vaccination for transplant recipients

A woman in Lycoming County was notified last week that she will not be eligible for a kidney transplant because she refuses to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

MUNCY, Pa. — Sherry Breen of Muncy, who suffers from Stage 4 kidney disease, was told by doctors at Geisinger that she will not be eligible for a kidney transplant unless she agrees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Someday, my life will hopefully be back to normal and receive a transplant, and then when I was told I couldn't receive the transplant without the vaccine, it was really a mix of irritation, frustration, and fear," Breen said.

Transplant hospitals like Geisinger are legally allowed to require transplant donors and recipients to be vaccinated.

Geisinger issued this statement to WNEP on the matter:

"Based on overwhelming data and recommendations from countless experts, including our own, we have decided to require all transplant patients receive the COVID-19 vaccine."

Breen started dialysis six years ago and has been on a kidney transplant list ever since. She also highlighted that she has a long line of health complications, including Lyme disease.

"The hope eventually was that I would receive a kidney transplant to relieve me of dialysis. The life expectancy on dialysis is about 6 to 8, maybe ten years."

According to Breen, she is immunocompromised and fears that the long-term effects of the vaccine will harm her.

"Because of my immune system's response to things over the years, I am really scared of the vaccine, and not knowing what the long-term side effects are, and how my immune system will handle it."

Not all transplant hospitals require recipients to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Breen has been talking with other hospitals about the possibility of a transplant.

"UPMC reviews patients on a case-by-case basis. So, if they look through my file and decide that the vaccine might be too risky for her, which is how I feel, then I wouldn't be required to receive it before transplant," Breen said.

Newswatch 16 reached out to UPMC, and we learned that it currently does not require any proof of vaccination status for transplant recipients. If UPMC does agree to a transplant, then Breen will have to be put on a waiting list.

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