We are in the middle of a global pandemic. However, there is good news: a vaccine has been developed that can reduce transmission of the deadly disease, and save the lives of those who do contract it! Here’s the downside: people are refusing to be vaccinated, and hospitals are overflowing — again.
Back in April, about a year into the pandemic response, ABC reported that more than 3,600 healthcare workers in the United States alone had died from COVID-19. Still, the vaccination program, which was steadily rolling out under the new Presidential Administration, offered hope for an end to the virus that had kept doctors and nurses overworked, and filled hospitals and ICUs to capacity over the past year.
Still, a significant portion of the public seems to trust medical professionals only after contracting the virus and fighting for their lives — not when it’s still preventable. Exhausted and frustrated medical professionals are taking measures that seem extreme.
There’s a video going viral on Twitter, originating on Tiktok, of a woman who says that she’s 5 months pregnant and a cardiologist refused to see her because she is unvaccinated, and brought her unvaccinated child with her to her appointment. While, of course, it’s a one-sided story, since we haven’t heard from the cardiologist, who remains unnamed, social media is getting pretty worked up about the video.
Watch every second of this. https://t.co/UTmmL0qTmx
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) August 23, 2021
The response varies along a wide spectrum, from pointing out the ‘free market’ and telling her to find a doctor who supports her choice, to suggesting all doctors should do the same, to demanding his name and declaring his license should be yanked.
But this story isn’t an isolated one. There are doctors across the country saying that this — what has been called “a pandemic of the unvaccinated” — is too much.
We recently reported on doctors in Florida who engaged in a symbolic walkout in protest, because hospitals in the state are at capacity, and as the doctors explain, some of these patients did not have to end up in the hospital or ICU at all, if they had chosen to trust medical professionals weeks or months sooner, and gotten vaccinated.
In Texas, the Dallas News reports that doctors discussed vaccination status as a triage factor, for determining who gets an ICU bed when there are more patients than a hospital can handle. Dr. Mark Casanova later explained that the leaked memo sharing this information was more of a “homework assignment” for his task force, and that vaccination status shouldn’t be used as a triage factor.
In Alabama, Dr. Jason Valentine of the Diagnostic and Medical Clinic in Mobile, is taking criticism after he announced that he won’t take patients who are unvaccinated. The Washington Post reports that he will start requiring patients to show a vaccination card as of October 1st, and will be happy to help transfer to another provider any who refuse to do so.
He explained, “I cannot and will not force anyone to take the vaccine, but I also cannot continue to watch my patients suffer and die from an eminently preventable disease.”
(While this seems like an extreme measure, and again has some calling for his license, Healthline reported last year that about a third of pediatricians refuse to see patients who don’t get routine childhood vaccines, so it’s not exactly a first.)
A California doctor says that after a year of this, she’s running out of empathy and compassion for the unvaccinated. In an LA Times opinion piece, she describes caring for hundreds of COVID-19 patients, and hitting compassion fatigue. In particular, she describes one patient saying he refused to get vaccinated because the vaccines weren’t yet FDA approved, were “experimental” — but when offered a treatment regime that hadn’t had as much study, he was ready for “whatever it takes to save my life.” (It didn’t work.)
“For those of us who hadn’t left after the hardest year of our professional lives, even hope was now in short supply,” Dr. Anita Sircar said.
Health professionals are overwhelmed and exhausted. They’re begging people to take this simple step to save lives and hopefully bring the worst of this pandemic to a real end. In the meantime, they’re being driven to measures like turning away patients, and even staging walkouts. How much do can expect them to bear?
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com