EDITORIAL: Medical professionals should lead on vaccines

Rally organizer Jessica Blake of Amsterdam walks down the line of assembled protesters on Route 30 in Amsterdam Sept. 5 across from St. Mary's Healthcare because the organization will require proof of a COVID-19 vaccine by its employees by Oct. 1.
Rally organizer Jessica Blake of Amsterdam walks down the line of assembled protesters on Route 30 in Amsterdam Sept. 5 across from St. Mary's Healthcare because the organization will require proof of a COVID-19 vaccine by its employees by Oct. 1.

Raise your hand if you’d rather be treated at a medical institution where all the staff are updated on their vaccinations against various diseases, including COVID.

Now raise your hand if you’d prefer to be treated at a hospital or nursing home in which only a percentage of the staff are vaccinated.

OK. Hands down.

Raise your hand again if you feel medical professionals should be leaders in preventing the spread of deadly diseases and that they should be willing to demonstrate that by getting vaccinated themselves — unless they have a legitimate medical reason for not doing so.

It’s pretty clear how many hands would go up for each question.

When you put yourself in the position of the patient, your choice is clear.

Doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are the last line of defense for many of us against death or severe illness from COVID. They’re also the people we civilians look to for guidance on medical issues.

If many are shunning the vaccine, refusing to go to work or being forced out of work because they refuse to adhere to vaccine mandates, then it’s patients who will suffer.

And that potentially includes any of us, particularly individuals who refuse to get vaccinated themselves.

A study in Europe during the height of the pandemic last year — before the widespread distribution of vaccines and before the explosion of the delta variant — found that health care workers were seven times more likely to suffer severe effects from COVID than those in other professions.

That’s why it’s so disturbing that so many medical professionals — as well as front-line emergency responders such as EMS workers, firefighters and police — are shunning COVID vaccinations that have protected hundreds of millions of people around the globe from this virus; that have been demonstrated safe and effective in reducing deaths and the severity of illness; and that could be the lifeline for us all to emerge from the health and economic ravages of this disease.

Last week, about 40 people demonstrated in front of the Mohawk Valley Medical Arts Building in Amsterdam against a new state mandate issued by Gov. Kathy Hochul requiring that all hospital personnel and nursing homes employees receive their first shot of a COVID vaccine by Sept. 27 or face the possibility of losing their jobs.

Others, including some elected officials in state government, have joined in opposing the mandate, downgrading the seriousness of the COVID epidemic and overplaying the side effects of the vaccine vs. the dangers of contracting the virus.

In protests in Amsterdam and around the state, opponents have called the mandate an assault on their freedoms and “medical tyranny,” declaring, “My life, my choice.”

Some have even continued to post conspiracy theories that vaccines are poisonous and that COVID is a master plan from the deep state (whatever that means).

They fail to mention the fact that most everyone in the state, including themselves, have already been vaccinated against numerous diseases during their lifetime and have long been protected by the government from contracting these diseases.

Most public schools in the United States require children to be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP, DTP, Tdap, or Td), five doses; polio (OPV or IPV), four doses; hepatitis B, three doses; measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), two doses; and varicella (chickenpox), two doses.

Throughout history, vaccines have saved millions of lives, and the COVID vaccines are having the same positive impact in reducing severity of illness and death.

You don’t hear medical professionals complaining about their rights when it comes to being vaccinated against polio, do you?

Those adults who remember contracting chickenpox or mumps or whooping cough — including some of us on The Gazette editorial board — sure wish they had vaccines for those diseases when they were kids.

All vaccines have the potential for side effects, and no, not all are 100% effective.

But given the serious explosion of COVID cases in the country, the dangers posed by the much more contagious delta variant, the fact that younger people are dying and getting severely ill from the variant that weren’t before, and given the fact that unvaccinated patients are overwhelming medical facilities in states such as Florida, Texas and Mississippi, where vaccinations are discouraged, we need our medical professionals to lead the way and support vaccinations, not oppose them.

The unanticipated opposition to vaccines from medical professionals has put public officials like Gov. Hochul and President Biden in a tough spot.

If they issue mandates for health care workers to get vaccinated, they risk enough of those professionals opting out and then not having enough health care workers available to treat all the patients.

If they pull back on the vaccination mandates in response to the protests out of fear of not having enough staff, they risk putting patients and health care professionals at risk, even with regular testing.

If health care workers who are unvaccinated get sick, they can’t work, and the hospitals and nursing homes will be short-staffed anyway.

Some people have legitimate reasons for not wanting the vaccine. But many more are using misinformation and nonsensical claims — that being vaccinated is somehow depriving them of their freedoms — to put themselves and people in need of medical help at risk.

If you’re a medical professional who objects to getting a vaccine or who objects to being required to get it as a condition of employment, do everyone a favor: Review medical information about vaccines from legitimate sources. There are plenty out there. Talk to doctors and others who know about the vaccines and have done the research.

Dismiss sources that are illegitimate or have a political or philosophical basis for their positions.

Consider the impact your decision is having on the health and well-being of people who need medical attention — not just COVID patients but others in need.

Then reconsider whether your decision is the right one, for yourself and for others.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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