A physician’s plea to all health care workers
I remember as a young boy hearing the air raid sirens going off, a sign for all of us to jump into one of the earthen bunkers that had been dug recently in our back yard. Soon India’s jets would scream overhead followed by the inevitable explosion of bombs being dropped on the Ravi bridge and airport close by. Quite often the bombs would miss their target and the villages nearby would be struck and hundreds of injured would be brought to our hospital compound for treatment.
This was the Pakistan/India war of 1972 and my family was living in Lahore right on the border with India. My father was a physician working in the hospital and my mother was involved teaching in the nursing program.
Fast forward to 2021 and our Rogue Valley in the middle of a public health crisis caused by a highly contagious COVID virus. This is a health threat and emergency we have not witnessed for decades. Besides causing suﬀering to hundreds of people hospitalized with severe cases, and the death of dozens just in the last month alone, it is severely straining our medical facilities and health care workers in an unprecedented fashion.
This is not new information as it has been reported countless times. What may not be known is that our hospitals, medical facilities and oﬃces have a sizable percentage of workers who have chosen not to be vaccinated. This, despite witnessing ﬁrst-hand the overﬂowing ERs and ICUs and all the suﬀering. Suﬀering which could have been, and still could be, signiﬁcantly reduced by a simple vaccine.
These vaccines have been administered over 370 million times to people in the United States alone over the past year and have proven, unquestionably, to be highly eﬀective in preventing serious illness and death as well as decreasing transmissibility of the virus to others.
Asante’s own data show dramatically that those hospitalized, in ICUs and intubated are almost all unvaccinated patients. This is not fabricated or falsiﬁed medical information, it is the painful truth.
In terms of safety, there have been reports, and some have even witnessed ﬁrst-hand, serious complications and bad reactions to these COVID vaccines. It certainly can happen and many refuse the shot for this very reason. But these adverse events with the vaccine are actually incredibly rare. If they were not, why would we as physicians even agree to take the vaccine ourselves and then recommend it to even our own children and elderly parents?
We are not participating, or unwittingly involved, in some pharmacologic, FDA or CDC scheme. We are in the healing vocation trying to save our community from harm and illness. It is also why a recent letter supporting getting the vaccine was signed by over 550 local health care providers in Southern Oregon, irrespective of political party aﬃliation.
We are not attempting to harm anyone but rather compassionately the opposite, we want to protect you, your family and your neighbors. But we need your help, especially our medical workers who remain skeptical of the vaccine. You need to get vaccinated.
When we sign up to take part in caring for patients and being part of this noble vocation of healing, regardless of what role we may have, we all know there is some inherent risk and consequence, but we say yes anyway. It is similar to the soldier who goes oﬀ to war or the ﬁreman running to put out a ﬁre. On the one-year anniversary of the Almeda ﬁre, we remember the eﬀorts of the ﬁrst responders, police and ﬁreﬁghters putting their lives at risk and staying on the job despite their own concerns. We call them heroes.
It is what we also do: place the good of others before our own personal safety. Not all the time but in extreme situations, yes. But unlike the soldier or the ﬁreman, the risk to this vaccine is infinitesimally small. So, yes, you can refuse the vaccine and walk away from your medical work due to fear and anxiety, but be clear you are walking away in the middle of a public health crisis unprecedented in our lifetime and at a time when you are needed most by your colleagues, your patients and your community.
My parents, and many others working in the hospital in Pakistan 1972, stayed and treated patients throughout the war. They and their families were fearful and anxious about the consequences but they did so anyway. I am asking all of you, in the proud tradition of so many thousands of medical workers who have come before, to do the right thing for the welfare and good of all of us, even despite the risk you might feel, and get the vaccine, stay on your job and help us get over this pandemic for good and end the needless suffering of so many.
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