"For the most part, people are looking for answers, but the cards are stacked against them in this digital world. Every health care provider has had that one ardent unvaccinated conspiracy theorist who refused to believe that COVID is real despite showing them their trashed lungs on the CT scan, all while they’re on high-flow oxygen. Anecdote holding the power that it does, that patient runs the risk of coloring our perception of all unvaccinated patients in this same light. But, instead, my charge to health care providers is this: Take a meaningful pause and ask, “How did this person get to this point?” And understand that their condition is in part due to the challenges of the common person trying to understand complex medical science and being influenced by those with alternative agendas.
That same night, I diagnosed a young woman, with three young kids, with lung cancer. She was a smoker, and she knew that smoking can cause cancer. How is her situation any different from an unvaccinated person with COVID? How many of us would stand at the bedside in her tragic hour and berate her for smoking? How many of us would, upon learning of someone’s death from cancer, say flatly, “Served her right”? If she said. “I didn’t think it would happen to me,” would anyone really say, “Whelp, I hope you survive” as we walked out the room? These are statements I have heard said to or about unvaccinated COVID patients in a recent week. Clearly, this does nothing to foster that trusted relationship between a physician and their patient.
When I asked my unvaccinated COVID patient what was keeping him from getting the shot, he said he had read online that the vaccine gets into your DNA and he was afraid of what that would mean. So I sat down on his bed and spent a few minutes drawing a picture of a cell and nucleus, and explained in simple terms how mRNA works and why his DNA is not at risk. His next question was, “How soon can I get the vaccine?” He then called his kids and told them the same, and they asked where they could get the vaccine. While not successful in every encounter, I’m optimistic about the ripple effect that these little wins may have. And damn it if we don’t need a win now and again. In our most fundamental charge, “doctor” means “teacher.” This is the year where we understand. This is the year where we teach."
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