CDC Director Rochelle Walensky called the COVID-19 scourge the "pandemic of the unvaccinated" last Friday adding that her "biggest concern is we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations and sadly deaths among the unvaccinated."
The vast difference in hospitalization and death rates from the virus are a testament to the vaccine's efficacy. It also reveals the grim reality that just about every death or hospitalization that happens in this phase of the pandemic is preventable.
Ninety-seven percent of those currently hospitalized for severe COVID-19 infections and 99% of recent deaths from the virus are among the unvaccinated.
"If you don't choose the vaccine, you're choosing death," one Louisiana doctor said at a press conference last week.
Alabama has the lowest vaccination rate in the country at just 33.7% so it's no shock that case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths are surging in the state, partly due to the spread of the more contagious Delta variant.
State officials report 94% of COVID hospital patients and 96% of Alabamians who have died of COVID since April were not fully vaccinated.
Dr. Brytney Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, says that all but one of her COVID patients didn't receive the vaccine. The vaccinated individual just needed a little oxygen and is expected to recover.
Sadly, many of her dying patients regret not getting the vaccine in their final moments.
"One of the last things they do before they're intubated is beg me for the vaccine," she wrote on Facebook. "I hold their hand and tell them that 'I'm sorry, but it's too late.'"
"A few days later when I call time of death, 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," she wrote.
Many of these families and patients decided against getting the vaccine due to misinformation.
"They thought it was political," she wrote. "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.'"
BREAKING: "This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated," CDC Dir. Walensky says in White House Covid briefing.… https://t.co/BwCQOdt1l2— NBC News (@NBC News)1626449174.0
As a doctor, she has to refrain from judging the patients who could have prevented their own deaths.
"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 that is so regretful for the choice that they made," she told Alabama.
Dr. Cobia says that none of her unvaccinated patients consulted a doctor before making their decisions.
"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."
It's a shame that so many people in America have decided against protecting the health of themselves and others by refusing to get a life-saving vaccine. Let's hope that the experiences of health care professionals such as Dr. Cobia will persuade the unvaccinated to do what's right before they find themselves with real regrets.
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