A terminally ill woman has been denied a life-saving organ transplant because she isn’t vaccinated for Covid, despite having proof that she has developed natural immunity to the virus.
Sheila Annette Lewis of Alberta, Canada, was removed from an organ transplant list for refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
According to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), Lewis was denied access to the medical procedure even after obtaining an independent medical report showing that she has natural immunity.
Lewis has been challenging the constitutionality of the vaccine requirement put in place by Alberta Health Services (AHS) for transplant candidates.
On March 28, Lewis provided her doctors in the Alberta transplant program with a privately-funded medical report.
The JCCF said in a press release on April 18 that the report established that Lewis has strong natural immunity to Covid and had overcome previous infections.
The report, provided by the Kinexus Bioinformatics Corporation on March 24, said Lewis’s blood sample “clearly supports the presence of SARS-CoV-2 immunoreactivity.”
It also noted that she was likely infected with the disease around mid-September 2021 and was reinfected again more recently, and thus has “extremely high levels of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.”
According to JCCF, Lewis asked her physicians to test her blood for COVID-19 antibodies nearly a year ago to see if she was naturally immune.
However, the doctors refused to do so and, instead, pulled her name from the transplant list.
After Lewis provided her Kinexus report, one of her transplant physicians informed her on April 3 that she has been denied a life-saving operation.
Despite the test results, the doctors said that “nothing had changed in regards to healthcare policies pertaining to COVID-19 vaccination requirements” and that she would still need to be vaccinated before the hospital would give her an organ transplant, the JCCF said in its press release.
“[The physician] told her that the Kinexus Report concluded that even with natural immunity, she would need a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine,” JCCF said.
“However, the report does not say anything about Ms. Lewis needing a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to maintain immunity to Covid-19.”
On June 14, 2022, Alberta lifted all Covid-related mandatory public health restrictions.
A guideline from the Alberta government, listing a number of “routine immunizations” that adult organ transplant candidates are required to receive prior to a transplant, says patients should have a “primary series” of three doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
Booster shots, meanwhile, are needed “at least 6 months after primary series or previous booster dose.”
The guideline, published on March 20, is a revision of immunization principles for transplant recipients issued on June 1, 2022.
JCCF said it has sent a demand letter to AHS, the Alberta hospital, and Lewis’s transplant physicians.
The letter requests “that they accept her now established natural immunity to Covid-19 as an alternative to Covid-19 vaccination and reinstate her to the high-priority transplant waitlist by April 21, 2023.”
“The transplant program team, AHS, and the hospital ought to accept Ms. Lewis’s natural immunity to Covid-19 as an alternative to Covid-19 vaccination and reinstate her to the high-priority transplant list immediately,” said Allison Pejovic, Lewis’s legal counsel.
“There is no principled medical or scientific reason to continue to deny Ms. Lewis a life-saving organ transplant.”
Lewis previously took AHS, an Alberta hospital where she would have received a transplant, and six transplant program physicians to court.
However, she was unsuccessful at both the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench and the Alberta Court of Appeal in 2022, JCCF said.
Both courts found that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Bill of Rights do not apply to the Covid vaccine policies developed by the AHS and other defendants.
Lewis has filed an application with the Supreme Court of Canada, asking it to hear her appeal, JCCF said.
The country’s highest court has not yet decided whether it will do so.
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