Opinion: We’re local ER docs. Help us end the pandemic

Quest column by Dr. Rebecca Kornas, Dr. Jasmeet Dhaliwal, Dr. Kristen Nordenholz, Dr. Kevin Merrell, Dr. Comilla Sasson
Posted 10/12/21

You trust us 24/7/365 to take care of you in emergency departments throughout Colorado. We have been treating COVID-19 for more than 20 months, never missing a day of work, except for illness. We …

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Opinion: We’re local ER docs. Help us end the pandemic

Posted

You trust us 24/7/365 to take care of you in emergency departments throughout Colorado. We have been treating COVID-19 for more than 20 months, never missing a day of work, except for illness.

We continue to work tirelessly to save lives and advocate for you, our patients, but we and our colleagues are exhausted and our hospitals are overflowing.

We need your help.

COVID-19 vaccines don’t work? False.

Vaccines protect against infection, hospitalization and, most importantly, death from COVID-19. Please get vaccinated, ASAP. Unvaccinated patients tell us they chose not to get vaccinated because they didn’t believe they could get sick. However, we are seeing people every day, including the young and otherwise healthy, become critically ill and even die from COVID-19.

Colorado hospitals report that 81% of currently hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated and there are zero Coloradans hospitalized for vaccine side-effects. The hospitalization rate from COVID-19 is about four times higher in unvaccinated vs. vaccinated (726 vs. 168 per 100,000 cases). The death rate from COVID-19 is about six times higher for the unvaccinated vs vaccinated (47 vs. 8.1 per 1 million cases).

If I’m pregnant, should I get the COVID-19 vaccine? Yes.

The CDC formally recommended COVID-19 vaccination to women “who are pregnant, recently pregnant (including those who are lactating), who are trying to become pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future.” In this group, the benefits of vaccination outweigh known or potential risks.

As of Sept. 27, more than 125,000 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in pregnant people, including more than 22,000 hospitalized cases and 161 deaths. Of the pregnant women hospitalized with COVID-19, 97% of them were unvaccinated. Getting vaccinated protects children (unborn, breastfeeding and all under 12), who cannot yet receive the vaccine.

Are vaccines dangerous? No.

Vaccines are much safer than COVID-19 infection. There are rare side effects in a very small number of patients. However, getting COVID-19 can make you very sick, and you might even die. Even if you don’t die, you may develop lifelong symptoms.

If I have had COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine? Yes.

Unvaccinated individuals are more than twice as likely to be reinfected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus. Vaccines also provide longer-lasting immunity. Lastly, the vaccines have been shown to protect people against the currently circulating types of the virus, called variants. Natural infection may not offer the same protection.

Can you get COVID-19 twice? Yes.

Your body’s immune system response to COVID-19 is highly variable, so you can get it twice. That’s also why different people can have such different symptoms from the virus. We do know that getting vaccinated after an infection means you are much less likely to get infected twice.

Do the vaccines protect against long-haul COVID-19? Yes.

About a third of COVID-19 cases may have ongoing symptoms that last months, a situation known as “long- haul COVID.” But this is extremely rare in the vaccinated. Research shows that 30-40% of people with long-haul COVID symptoms, such as brain fog, persistent shortness of breath or stomach issues, improve after receiving a COVID vaccine, which may be the vaccine helping the immune system fight the remaining virus.

Can getting the COVID-19 vaccine protect against the emergence of new variants? Yes.

This is one of the most important aspects of immunization. Immunization protects against the development of new variants, because the virus is not given the chance to mutate and evolve when it jumps from person to person.

We, your emergency physicians, were among the first in Colorado to be immunized, and many have already had our third vaccinations.

Help us end this pandemic. Help us by protecting yourself, your loved ones and your neighbors by getting vaccinated.

Dr. Rebecca Kornas, M.D., of Denver, is an emergency physician in the Denver metro area and Louisville. Dr. Jasmeet Dhaliwal, M.D., of Denver, is an emergency physician in Denver, Fort Collins and Summit County. Dr. Kristen Nordenholz M.D., of Denver, is an emergency physician in Aurora. Dr. Kevin Merrell, M.D., of Denver, is an emergency physician in Denver, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties. Dr. Comilla Sasson, M.D., of Lakewood, is an emergency medicine physician in the Denver area.

This opinion is from The Colorado Sun, a journalist-owned news outlet based in Denver and covering the state. For more, and to support The Colorado Sun, visit coloradosun.com. The Colorado Sun is a partner in the Colorado News Conservancy, owner of Colorado Community Media.

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