The Crisis of the Unvaccinated

Hospitalist Gretchen Price, DO, has treated so many patients with COVID-19 at Saint Francis Medical Center she has lost count. As a medical professional who has lost more patients in the past year than any other year in her career, Price strongly urges anyone who remains unvaccinated to reconsider.

I have been involved in our COVID response since the beginning. I have treated so many patients with COVID now that I have lost count, and many of them are no longer with us. As a doctor, this has been really difficult.

Before I put the breathing tube in, I assure my patients, “I need you to remember that even though I am putting you to sleep, you are still fighting this, and I am still fighting this. I need you to remember you need to fight to get through this.” Sometimes, that is the last thing they hear.

When I call my patients’ families with updates, the calls with bad news outnumber the good. I have had to tell families that their parents, spouses, children were not coming home. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

People assume they will do okay with COVID, but it is not always the case. A large portion of patients I thought would have died from COVID never ended up on a ventilator, and a large portion I thought would do fine are not here with their families anymore.

Dr. Gretchen Price in PPE

Patients who end up on a ventilator have a high rate of muscle weakness that requires relearning simple day-to-day tasks. There are so many people who have had COVID and still have symptoms six months out. It changes lives forever.

When the vaccine came out, I was hopeful. This was the game-changer we had longed for; the end was in sight. I felt relief.

The vaccines are safe and remarkably effective at preventing severe illness, even with different variants.

If vaccinated, you are a lot less likely to end up hospitalized or needing a ventilator. The vaccine is not without some risks, but the risk posed by the vaccine is significantly less than the risk of getting COVID. The flu-like symptoms I experienced after I got the vaccine resulted in one lost day of playing with my kids versus weeks of me in the hospital with them wondering if Mommy will come home.

Gretchen Price with marks on face from mask

My initial hope with the vaccine has turned to frustration and, some days, anger. I cannot do this forever. My colleagues cannot do this forever. Emotionally, it is too hard. We cannot take this amount of suffering and death and continue to function in healthcare. This puts the whole US health system in crisis. We are losing nurses, respiratory therapists and doctors.

A year ago today, we did not have a choice in the matter. Now, we can prevent this, and we can prevent it by being vaccinated. I have cared for one patient who was vaccinated. Minimal care was needed, and no ventilation. All my other patients have been unvaccinated — some in their early twenties — and had more severe courses. If we want to protect ourselves and our loved ones, the best option is vaccination.

To schedule a COVID vaccination at Saint Francis Medical Center, please call 573-381-5958, or contact your local health department to find a vaccination site nearest you.

If you have additional questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and your personal health history, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider or locate one here.