July 22, 2021 -- As COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in areas with low vaccination rates, patients are asking for a vaccine, but it’s often “too late,” one doctor said.
At Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, AL, for instance, doctors are treating young, otherwise healthy patients who have gotten serious coronavirus infections.
“One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine,” Brytney Cobia, MD, a hospitalist at Grandview, wrote in a Facebook post.
“I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late,” she said. “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.”
The family members then cry, she wrote, and often say “they didn’t know,” they “thought it was a hoax,” and thought the coronavirus was “just the flu.”
“And they wish they could go back. But they can’t,” Cobia wrote. “So, they thank me, and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.”
COVID-19 cases have tripled in the U.S. during the past 2 weeks, and COVID-19 hospitalizations are beginning to strain health care systems again, according to The Associated Press. Staff members, including doctors and clergy, are feeling a return to the toughest months of the pandemic.
“Our staff, they are frustrated,” Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention at UF Health Jacksonville in Florida, told the AP.
The hospital is canceling elective surgeries and procedures as the number of COVID-19 patients grows. Now, more than 130 patients are being treated for coronavirus infections, up from a low of 16 patients in May. Nearly all are unvaccinated.
“They are tired,” Nielsen said. “They are thinking this is déjà vu all over again, and there is some anger because we know that this is a largely preventable situation, and people are not taking advantage of the vaccine.”
The 7-day average of daily U.S. cases rose above 41,000 on Wednesday, according to The New York Times, and that number is increasing rapidly. On Wednesday alone, the U.S. reported more than 52,000 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. also has a 7-day average of more than 26,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the Times reported.
“It is like seeing the car wreck before it happens,” James Williams, DO, a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at Texas Tech University, told the AP.
Williams has begun treating more COVID-19 patients in recent weeks, and most are unvaccinated people under age 50.
“None of us want to go through this again,” he said.