(NewsNation Now) — A 31-year-old Boston man was taken off the heart transplant list because he is refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, his family said.
DJ Ferguson has a hereditary heart condition and he’s been hospitalized since November. His family says he was first on the list to receive the transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, but he is no longer eligible due to his vaccination status.
“We are literally in a corner right now. This is extremely time-sensitive. We’re being pressured to choose a shot that could kill him. This is not just a political issue. People need to have a choice,” wrote Amanda Brodeur, a friend of the Ferguson family, who set up a GoFundMe page to help cover his medical expenses.
Ferguson’s father has said his son doesn’t believe in the vaccine, but personal principles are not enough to bypass the hospital’s vaccine requirement for transplant recipients.
“And 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.
Ferguson is now in “severe end-stage heart failure, meaning that he is going to need a heart transplant to live,” according to Brodeur.
His family fears that getting the shot will cause swelling of the heart, which could put him at risk for sudden death. Research does support that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines can give a patient temporary heart swelling, but the hospital won’t budge.
Bringham and Women’s Hospital is one of the many hospitals nationwide that recommends potential transplant recipients get the coronavirus vaccine. University of California – San Francisco recommends transplant patients receive a booster shot.
“The benefits of vaccination far outweigh any risks, so we encourage all our transplant patients to get vaccinated,” UCSF said in part. “We believe the vaccine is safe for nearly everyone. We recommend COVID-19 vaccination for all pre- and post-transplant patients, all living donors, and all close contacts.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering an additional fourth shot for immunocompromised people.
Ferguson’s family is considering moving him to another hospital, but they’re worried he might be too weak to move. On Tuesday his family says he underwent surgery to install a left ventricular assist device. The device will mechanically pump his heart for the time being.