Have you ever had to repeatedly tell a co-worker not to be so careless about a particular safety rule? Ever had to tell a child again and again not to do a particular dangerous behavior? If you have, you can understand the frustrations of anyone whose repeated warnings of danger have gone unheeded thus leading to tragedy.
So it is with the current surge in the Covid-19 crisis. Health authorities at the national, state, and local level have long proclaimed the importance of every eligible person being vaccinated against Covid-19. Free vaccines have been available for months now; yet, here we are in Moultrie, GA with Covid infection rates surging to new heights. As of this writing (13 Aug), Colquitt Regional Medical Center is at 113% of capacity. Patients are receiving care not only in hospital rooms, but in crowded hallways and waiting rooms. Half of the medical center’s beds are being taken by Covid positive patients and the situation is even worse in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where there are more Covid patients than beds, the overflow receiving ICU-level care in the emergency room until ICU beds become available.
Why is this happening? Largely because even at this late date only 30% of Colquitt Countians have been vaccinated against Covid-19. The data is similar in all our surrounding counties. Those numbers say that the majority of our regional population have not heeded the urgings of competent authorities for everyone to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Are the vaccines safe? Yes. Many reviews of the now millions of pieces of data available show the vaccines are safe. Further, the most common vaccines are 95% effective, a virtual miracle in the vaccine world. Yes, there will be break-through infections; but 95% effectiveness means that in a population like Colquitt County’s (46,000) where presently 30% are fully vaccinated (13,800), one could expect up to 690 break-through cases and still be within the margin of 95% effectiveness. The important thing is that even in those break-through cases the patients’ symptoms are almost always mild, do not require hospitalization, and do not result in death. In short, vaccines are life-saving. Period.
With that fact in mind, imagine the frustration of our medical center’s staff who, after all these months, still find themselves being called from their normal duties to come help an overwhelmed ER or to extend a wearying shift because the hospital is filled to over-capacity with people who largely could have saved themselves from illness had they exercised their simple duty to be vaccinated. Situations like these are mentally and physically exhausting for health care workers and the staff at Colquitt Regional Medical Center are no different. They tire, they mourn, they feel pain like anyone else, and in this crisis they have overcome all that to serve our community well. The physicians, pharmacists, nurses, technicians, and aides and assistants of every kind deserve our support and applause. If you know a medical center employee, give them a pat on the back and a thank you. They probably wouldn’t even mind a cookie.
Terry Turner, PhD, is a resident of Colquitt County and professor emeritus of urology at the University of Virginia.