Op-Ed: An apple a day keeps the doctor away; a vaccine today shortens the stay of Covid-19

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I am a retired physician who worked for 42 years in Blaine and before that, I practiced for three years in Canada. Given the current crisis, I am passionate about educating this community and the seriousness of this disease.

Several years ago, my clinic received an award from Whatcom County Public Health Department for having the highest percentage of vaccinated patients. Even though retired, I continue to still be deeply committed to vaccination compliance. I am livid at the lack of respect for my profession and the lack of compassion for humanity and health care workers. More than being a physician, as a mother, grandmother, sister and wife, I think it is my duty to keep my family as safe as I can.

Children under 12 are at a significant risk. It is our responsibility, as adults, to keep them safe. After all, we teach them to wear bike helmets, seat belts and look both ways when crossing the street. Being an unvaccinated adult and choosing to be around children is akin to child endangerment.

Every day at our hospital we are seeing the unvaccinated patients of Whatcom County suffer. This is a terrifying sight. Health care providers with children under vaccination age, are watching what their babies might face in the event they become infected from a patient and bring that infection home. This is preventable. It is preventable by every eligible community member getting vaccinated.

On May 10, vaccinations became widely available to the community. Since that date, of the 23 Whatcom County Covid-19 deaths, only one person was vaccinated. Ninety-five percent of the Covid-19 hospitalizations have been unvaccinated patients. This is evidence enough that the vaccine is effective for preventing severe disease. The people of Whatcom County need to understand this is no longer a senior citizen’s disease. This is now a disease that preys on the young.

At least one Whatcom County mother passed away from Covid-19 in the 20th week of her pregnancy. She was only 24 years old but unvaccinated. At the time of publication, I am still waiting for a response on the Washington state statistics for maternal and fetal deaths from Covid-19.

My colleague who works in the intensive care unit (ICU) states:

“People need to realize that once someone is sick enough to be admitted to the ICU, requiring mechanical ventilation, there aren’t many good therapy options left. At that point, our critical care team is trying to support them so that their bodies have time to recover while treating complications such as super infections, cardiomyopathy and venous thromboembolism. Once released from the ICU, patients do not recover quickly.

The effects of Covid-19 infection are still being gathered and analyzed. Only time will tell if Covid-19 survivors suffer long-term problems like the polio survivors who developed post-polio syndrome, in which symptoms continue decades after infection.

Patients are arriving for treatment every day, denying the existence of Covid-19, refusing to mask or social distance, but when in pulmonary distress and diagnosed with Covid-19, they want “all that science can throw” at them. We have multiple forms of science to throw at them. It’s called a vaccine.

You have your choice of three brands, and they are all free. Other U.S. doctors have pushed back, saying they will refuse patients who are not vaccinated. Their stance: If you aren’t going to vaccinate; don’t come to us when you get sick. 

The complete lack of respect for other humans is very dismaying. If people think that their personal liberty extends beyond their nose and don’t want to get vaccinated – then don’t leave your house – ever. When patients come to doctors for treatment and verbally abuse them over the reality of this pandemic, berate and yell at staff and nurses for believing in “the Hoax,” it’s hard to be compassionate and caring. Compassion fatigue is real. 

In recent news, 75 Florida physicians held a press conference to encourage their community to get vaccinated. We are asking the same from you. As doctors on the frontline, we’ve had near constant exposure to Covid-19 for the last 18 months causing frequent episodes of testing, quarantining and isolation from our families. By vaccinating, people can conserve the availability of medical care and supplies for others and the physicians who use them.

Another colleague shared their frustration:

“We are repeatedly being forced to cancel procedures, some of which our patients have often waited many weeks. This is simply because there are not enough beds in the hospital to care for them afterward. This is largely due to the surge in Covid-19 inpatient cases, almost all of whom are unvaccinated patients. While we took an oath to give our best to all patients in their time of need, this situation is increasingly upsetting to many of us. We often feel a tremendous amount of angst and guilt when our patients cannot get access to the care they desperately need.

“Most of us believe that everyone has a right to healthcare, but an unvaccinated person who contracts Covid-19 should not take priority over another patient who has a legitimate need for hospital-based care in their time of need. These conflicts could largely be avoided if people would realize that healthcare resources are finite. We all must work together to keep society healthy. Herd immunity is a real thing. Vaccines work. Your rights don’t trump other people’s rights. Why is that so hard for so many people to understand?”

The average length of a hospitalization in the Covid-19 ICU ward is between 8-21 days. With an average cost of tens of thousands of dollars, this would bankrupt most families – all because people did not invest their time in a free vaccine. With FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, Delta Airlines will be charging its unvaccinated employees an extra $200 a month for health insurance starting November 1. More corporations are sure to follow.

Considering the current treatment options for Covid-19 infection, prevention is the most effective and efficient. Society relies on herd immunity for vaccines; however, when people’s immunity wanes and the virus mutates, social distancing, masking and hand washing remain vital.   

And yet, unvaccinated patients continue to fill the emergency room and ICU. Even after testing positive, some patients continue to deny the validity of the virus. It makes absolutely no sense and is maddening for those of us in healthcare. People continue to seek alternative information that fits their worldview from anyone but an actual expert in the field. Would you take your car to the dentist to be maintained?

Please take medical advice from licensed medical providers you trust. And if you don’t trust us, then don’t seek help from us when you become Covid-19 positive. Instead, it is best that you update your will, draw up your estate plans and sign your Portable Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form. Say goodbye to your family, now, as you will not be able to give them a hug and kiss after entering the ICU.

Marta Kazymyra, MD, is a retired Blaine family physician.

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