déjà vu

With a heavy heart, I write this post.

I’m not here to condemn or condone, I’m here to call you in. Because the situation that we are in right now is because many people were never called out.

I am a Hospital Medicine Physician Assistant in Myrtle Beach, SC. I have worked throughout this pandemic in both hospital medicine as well as in the emergency department. I’ve seen first hand the toll that this virus has on individuals of all ages and races with varying co-morbidities. I’ve admitted patients with hypoxia (low blood oxygen saturation) due to this virus. I’ve transferred patients to the ICU who required intubation and respiratory support because they are maxed out on BiPap because of this virus. I’ve spoken with families of patients concerned about the survival of their moms and dads because of this virus. But I’ve also watched patients get better while inpatient and get discharged with this virus. I’ve seen a wide breadth of clinical presentations and symptoms. However, I’m growing weary as a medical provider.

Weary because medical providers, like myself, have had to shoulder the burden of this pandemic for over 17 months. Weary because the emotional trauma of prior surges is resurfacing. Weary because many still believe the lie that if they aren’t on the frontline, then they don’t need to be vaccinated. Or that it’s their choice whether of not to get the vaccine in spite of the fact that this virus is ravaging out country. Weary because I feel completely betrayed by my community and country every time I show up to work.

Things we know about this virus:

This virus is deadly. Over 620,000 Americans have died since March 2020 at the hands of COVID-19.

This virus has long-term effects. Do we know them all? No, but providers have reported patients developing lung scarring, chronic fatigue, paresthesias, and changes in menstruation after contracting COVID-19. Who knows what other issues may arise, only time will tell.

This virus mutates. With new variants on the rise, this virus will continue to mutate until we build a high enough immunity within the general population. Epidemiologically speaking, when a virus is widely circulating in a population and causing many infections, the likelihood of the virus mutating increases. The more opportunities a virus has to spread, the more it replicates – and the more opportunities it has to undergo changes. Vaccines help to stop the spread of the virus in order to prevent mutations. Preventing mutations increases the efficacy of existing vaccines.

This virus can be more severe in those with pre-existing conditions. Because of that, it’s important to note that if you have asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart failure, hypertension, etc. that you may have severe symptoms if you contract this virus. However, getting vaccinated is a form of protection. It does not guarantee that you will not contract the virus, but it does ensure greater immunity to fight the virus and less risk of requiring hospitalization.

updated August 24th, 2021 from New York Times

If you have yet to get vaccinated, I highly implore you to get vaccinated. Not only is it FREE, it is also a way to love your neighbor. This is not a red vs. blue issue. This is not a “my body, my choice” issue. This is a we-can-do-better issue. Right now, we as a country are failing each other. Only 51% of the American population has been fully vaccinated. Countries like India, Peru, and Brazil are scrambling to get sufficient vaccines. Their access is limited and it’s putting their communities at risk. But in America, we have access. We have the means and resources and yet we are refusing to get vaccinated because of an infringement of rights? WE CAN DO BETTER. With the current surge of the delta variant sweeping communities and states with vaccination rates below the national average, it’s time for the selfish and stubborn to step up. I know that many people have reservations in regards to getting the vaccine. I’ve witnessed friends, coworkers, and colleagues of mine (many of which are medical professionals) who have blatantly refused to get the vaccine because of misinformation they have seen on the internet.

STOP sharing misinformation. STOP the furthering of biased studies and fabricated “facts”. I will validate your reasonings to not getting vaccinated when you provide me with peer reviewed, evidence-based resources that back up your case. This is not the time for you to make decisions based on your personal feelings. Feelings will betray you.

Trust the experts. When did we stop trusting people with higher education? When did we start believing that we know better than those who’ve spent years studying in their respective field of work? It saddens me that people have bought into the lie that they can “do their own research” on Dr. Google or Facebook and somehow thwart a medical professional’s years of training and education. I’m all for collaborative patient care, but let’s be attentive to how we engage with professionals who have spent countless years of their life doing what they do now.

Science is constantly evolving, so are the recommendations. Many people like to make the argument that they feel like information is being withheld from them, because recommendations and guidelines keep changing. One day masks aren’t recommended because frontline workers need them and we don’t want to create a critical shortage. The next day mask mandates are widespread. People feel like someone must be withholding information from them when recommendations changes. But the truth is, the nature of science is evolution. Based on scientific research and hypotheses being put to the test, our understanding of the world changes. That’s not a new fangled idea or concept. It’s the same way with our understanding of this virus. As we continue our research surrounding this virus, our understanding and knowledge of it increases. This allows for recommendation/guideline changes.

I never expected to have to serve during a global pandemic in my first year of practicing as a Physician Assistant. I never imagined that I’d be working as a medical provider in a time where our resources would be stretched so thin. I never thought people would be so reluctant to get something that could potentially save their lives. I never thought that this would continue for as long as it has.

Below are some updated recommendations proposed by leading experts in their field:

ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) Vaccine Recommendations
ACOG & SMFM recommend COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant individuals (7/30/21)
IDSA Real-Time Learning Network
FDA Approves First COVID Vaccine

If you’re looking for credible resources regarding the vaccine as well as how to find credible health information, here are a few:

Center for Disease Control (CDC)
Immunization Action Coalition (IAC)
National Institute of Health (NIH) COVID database
US Census COVID Demographic and Economic Resources
World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 Webpage
UCSF: How to Evaluate Health Information
MLA: Finding Good Health Information
PLEASE get vaccinated if you haven’t already. If you were waiting on FDA approval, here is your sign!
These surges will continue to happen until we gain ground against this virus.
Love your neighbor and take your shot!

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