A doctor in America’s least-vaccinated state penned an emotional Facebook post about what she tells her dying, anti-vax Covid patients as they change their tune and beg for a vaccine.
If you or a loved one are considering refusing the Covid-19 vaccines, which have overwhelmingly been shown to be safe, and effective, it’s important to truly understand the terrible risk you’re unnecessarily taking and the grim death you could potentially face if, by rejecting the vaccine, you contract the disease and end up in the hospital.
A recent article, based on an American doctor’s moving Facebook post, makes the importance of getting vaccinated clear in a truly personal and heartbreaking fashion.
As a bit of background information, in the United States, there is a distinct partisan gap when it comes to getting vaccinated against Covid-19, both in actual vaccination rates and, for those who have not yet been vaccinated, in the intent to get the jab.
In surveys, nearly 90% of Democrats say they’ve either gotten the vaccine already or will do so as soon as possible. Only 2% in this group reply that they will “definitely not” be immunised. Contrast that with Republicans, of whom only 54% have been vaccinated or indicate they will do so. A whopping 23% say they will “definitely not” take the vaccine, with almost that percentage saying they’d be unlikely to do so.
So there is a growing divide in the country, and if it continues, the pandemic will start disproportionately affecting Republicans, as they are significantly more likely to refuse the vaccines. And it’s not surprising: Republican politicians (including the former president) and conservative-leaning media have turned everything from mask wearing to social distancing to vaccinations into political and culture war issues, and as a result, it’s exactly these Americans – Republican voters – who are by far the least likely to get vaccinated.
In Alabama, one of the most staunchly Republican states in the US, the vaccine rate is barely above 30% – the lowest rate in the country as of mid-July.
‘I’M SORRY, BUT IT’S TOO LATE’
In the state’s largest city, Birmingham, Dr Brytney Cobia works at the Grandview Medical Center, and in an emotional Facebook post on July 18, she said that of her many recent Covid patients, all of them except one were unvaccinated. The vaccinated patient, she said, just needed a little oxygen therapy and is expected to fully recover.
The others are not so fortunate. Many are dying.
“I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious Covid infections,” Dr Cobia wrote. “One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”
Three authorised Covid-19 vaccines have been widely available in Alabama for months now, yet the state is last in the nation in vaccination rate, with only 33.7% of the population fully vaccinated. Covid-19 case numbers and hospitalizations are surging yet again due to the more contagious Delta variant of the virus and Alabama’s low vaccination rate.
For the first year and a half of the pandemic, Cobia and hundreds of other Alabama physicians caring for critically ill Covid-19 patients worked themselves to the bone trying to save as many as possible.
“Back in 2020 and early 2021, when the vaccine wasn’t available, it was just tragedy after tragedy after tragedy,” Cobia told local news outlet AL.com this week. “You know, so many people that did all the right things, and yet still came in, and were critically ill and died.”
Now, however, it’s a different story. In the U.S., according to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Covid-19 has become a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Indeed, in Alabama alone, state officials report that since April, 94% of Covid hospital patients and 96% of Alabamians who have died of Covid were not vaccinated.
Once Cobia has told her critically ill patients that their chance for accepting the vaccine has already come and gone, she says it only gets harder after that.
“A few days later when I call time of death,” continued Cobia on Facebook, “I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same.
“They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t. So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.”
‘YOU DID THIS TO YOURSELF’
Today, caring for Covid patients is a different story than it was in the beginning. Cobia said it’s different mentally and emotionally to care for someone who could have easily prevented their disease, but chose not to.
“You kind of go into it thinking, ‘Okay, I’m not going to feel bad for this person, because they made their own choice,’” Cobia said. “But then you actually see them, you see them face to face, and it really changes your whole perspective, because they’re still just a person that thinks that they made the best decision that they could with the information that they have, and all the misinformation that’s out there.
“And now all you really see is their fear and their regret. And even though I may walk into the room thinking, ‘Okay, this is your fault, you did this to yourself,’ when I leave the room, I just see a person that’s really suffering, and is so regretful for the choice that they made.”
CLOSE TO HOME
Cobia also had a personal experience with the virus, contracting it in July 2020 while 27 weeks pregnant with her second child. Her symptoms were mild, and the child, Carter, was delivered early out of caution, but suffered no serious complications.
Her husband, Miles, is also a physician, and the couple says they were both extremely cautious about wearing protective equipment, but one of them still caught the virus and gave it to the other, as well as other family members.
“We still went to work, but we masked 100% of the time,” Cobia said. “We didn’t go anywhere or do anything, we ordered through [delivery services] for all of our groceries, we did nothing at the time.”
Cobia said she delivered in September 2020 without incident and got the vaccine herself in December when it was initially made available to healthcare workers.
“I did not hesitate to get it,” she said. “There was a lot unknown at that time, because I was still breastfeeding, about whether that was safe or not. I talked to as many other physician colleagues as I could and spoke with my doctor as far as data that she had available and decided to continue breastfeeding after vaccination.”
A CHANGED APPROACH
Cobia recommends that people who are hesitant to accept the Covid vaccines speak with their doctor. She hints at her frustration that so many people are turning to Facebook and email chains for critical medical guidance.
“I try to be very non-judgmental when I’m getting a new Covid patient that’s unvaccinated, but I really just started asking them, ‘Why haven’t you gotten the vaccine?’ And I’ll just ask it point blank, in the least judgmental way possible,” she said. “And most of them, they’re very honest, they give me answers. ‘I talked to this person, I saw this thing on Facebook, I got this email, I saw this on the news,’ you know, these are all the reasons that I didn’t get vaccinated.
“And the one question that I always ask them is, ‘Did you make an appointment with your primary care doctor and ask them for their opinion on whether or not you should receive the vaccine?’ And so far, nobody has answered yes to that question.”
Reporting from AL.com in Alabama, USA contributed to this article.
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