If you are an unvaccinated adult and get COVID now, no one in health care has any sympathy for you

I have heard more than one person in the hospital comment that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if people who actively oppose getting vaccinated from COVID-19 just get sick and die. Then no one would have to listen to them anymore. Those are pretty harsh words and obviously not meant to be interpreted literally, but it’s clear the COVID-19 sympathy train has left the station.

Becoming critically ill from COVID-19 is now officially a preventable disease. The mRNA vaccines are one of the great achievements in medicine of the last century. Their effectiveness is tremendous. Are they perfect? No. People can still contract symptomatic COVID after being vaccinated. Is there a sub-section of folks who have had bad reactions to the vaccine? Absolutely. However, the vast majority of people have had minor issues. It seems that vaccines provide robust protection against serious illness. Any possible risks of getting vaccinated are clearly outweighed by the benefits.

A few months ago I had sympathy for those who were skeptical or scared to get the vaccine. It didn’t seem entirely nuts to want to wait and see if any unexpected side effects would be unearthed.

My sympathy has since evaporated.

Over 300 million doses of mRNA vaccine have been distributed with minimal problems. If you are still hesitant or fearful, but open to the idea of vaccination, the time to decide is now- today. You are out of time. The COVID delta variant is exploding. It has been described as one of the most contagious respiratory viruses in history. This is not the COVID of 2020. There will be no more hiding. I will say it now- almost everyone will get it, vaccinated or not. The vaccinated however will be protected from death and serious disease; for them it will be like a common cold. For the unvaccinated however, how they fair will be a bit of a crapshoot as the virus explodes unchecked around the world.

This sounds a lot like it could turn into a reenactment of Passover from the Book of Exodus? It’s like the vaccine is the lamb’s blood the Israelites mark above their doors to spare the Angel of Death from visiting their home and taking their first born. In our modern day version, COVID-19 is the Angel of Death.

Those of us who have worked with COVID patients cannot really comprehend why someone would not want the vaccine. When I was initially offered the vaccine, if my only option was have it directly stabbed into my eye, I would have taken it straight into my vitreous without blinking. We have just seen so much pain and death.

I still vividly remember the 30 year old previously healthy women with severe COVID who, as I broke her ribs with each chest compression, would wake up grab my arm and mouth “help me” and then quickly lose consciousness when we paused compressions to check her pulse. She would then wake up again as we pounded on her chest, then pass out… over and over and over- for an hour. Eventually she stopped waking up and I had to tell her family at 2am she was never coming home. This poor women never had the option to take a vaccine. My sympathy for her and her family ran deep.

Today, when someone who has refused the vaccine comes into the hospital and gets sick, I feel bad for them. But it’s a tangibly different feeling. Our compassion is reserved for other non-COVID patients who have been suffering during the pandemic. If you show up in the Emergency Room unvaccinated and sick with COVID, the first word health care workers will use to describe you is “Idiot.” Actually, we will probably still feel bad for you because we tend to genuinely care about other people in the world and it’s hard to stop ourselves from caring. But I am unlikely to evoke the same level of empathy that I had for that young woman who died in my arms. I will feel bad for you in a similar way I felt bad for the guy I once saw who decided to self inject methamphetamine and then shoot a firecracker up right up his ass. “Sorry you exploded your colon sir, but umm- that was fucking dumb.”

When I hear folks lecture me how mandating masks or vaccines is oppressive and against our rights as Americans, it exhausts me. The anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers I will no longer politely tolerate. I think in this country we have long tolerated their public health jeopardizing voices. Their freedom to reject vaccination science and tell everyone about it aligns itself with the American heralded ideal of preserving our God given right to choose what to do with our lives in the Land of the Free. We are individuals. How can we mandate masks and vaccines in America? If we want to take a risk with our lives, it’s our individual choice right? I mean…Freedom. That assumption cannot be challenged in America. We are not communists. In reality we must accept that individual rights about vaccines and public good need to find a balance just as they do in other aspects of our society.

These days everyone seems to think they are the protagonist of this story. But guess what? In reality you are not the star of the film. You are just a tiny background actor in the world’s larger movie. You are one instrument in an orchestra of seven billion. Our individualism is an illusion. We are all connected and dependent on each others actions- all of us- especially when it comes to tempering the fallout of an unleashed deadly virus.

If your selfish choices would only lead to your family having to one day contemplate if they wanna spring for the fancy coffin and nice deli sandwiches at your funeral, no one would care what you do. But during this pandemic, your choices can truly affect my life, my kids lives. That is why my tolerance of allowing folks to skip the vaccine is waning.

If you want the freedom to reject a vaccine you should have to suffer the complete consequences of said choice. If someone doesn’t want you on a plane, or at a school, or in a restuarant- that is their right to keep you out. If an insurance company wants to say they will not cover your hospital bills if you are unvaccinated and contract COVID, they might have a case. I once saw an ICU bill for over 10 million dollars so I hope you have good credit. No one is giving you a discount. You may think you are independent and not reliant on anyone, but when you get sick, and someday you will, you may become completely dependent: A caring nurse will have to clean your butt after you crap yourself in your own bed. A respiratory therapist will administer you life sustaining oxygen with a smile. A physical therapist will coach you learn to walk again after a prolonged illness. Each night you will pray that these kind souls don’t one day say, “You know what- I don’t really want to help you anymore, cause you know- Freedom.”

I still hold out hope for the few who are just scared or hesitant to get the vaccine. I met an old friend the other day who had not yet gotten her vaccine. She just couldn’t commit to getting the shot, but she was open to listening. She wasn’t peddling any political statements, protesting government recommendations, or falling down a conspiracy theory rabbit hole. She just honestly wasn’t sure. Intellectually, she knew she should get vaccinated, but couldn’t bring herself to do it. While talking to her, I found her concerns remarkably understandable and sympathetic.So I talked to her. I took a moment to explain what was happening with the vaccine and the virus. I listened.

These are the people health care professionals need to seek out and have a dialogue with…now.

Right now each of us who cares must reach out to anyone you know who might be hesitant and push them to get vaccinated. We must use our last ounce of compassion for the patients who have not yet gotten sick. These are the folks who can still be helped.

I can now happily report my friend has today gotten her vaccine.

Unfortunately those that choose to ignore our warnings will be on their own- hopefully they will be lucky and stay out of the hospital.

But remember if you choose not be vaccinated and get seriously sick from COVID and admitted to hospital, when you ring your call button because you are gasping for breath and need to have your oxygen level increased, you might have to wait a minute. Your neighbor in the hospital bed next door needs help first and your nurse honestly cares about him more.

He has a firecracker stuck up his butt.

26 thoughts on “If you are an unvaccinated adult and get COVID now, no one in health care has any sympathy for you”

  1. The question is, are you feeling bad for the vaccinated people the also get Covid? And are you considering the unvaccinated people that have contracted Covid in the past part of your “unsympathetic list”….especially considering they are protected at higher level with natural immunity! And again, never have we taken Vaccines to protect other people! We take it to protect ourselves,

    1. Thanks for the comment. The article is at its heart more about emphasizing that health care workers tears have drained dry. They are burned out and the compassion that they once had is harder to find now. Sure when it comes down to it and the patients have a name and story attached to them, the sympathy will rise to the top- because that’s who tends to wok in health care. (but probably not at the same level as last year)
      Just so you know, vaccinated people who get COVID now really don’t get very sick (with very very rare exceptions). I would bank that vaccinated or not, pretty much everyone will get COVID in next six months ( unless you lock yourself on an island). The only variable will be how sick you get. Immunity from previous COVID exposure is likely on as strong as how sick you got the first time- if you didn’t get super sick, your immunity may not be that much as you never mounted a large immune response. So if that previous infection is the reason you don’t get vaccinated (and effectively giving yourself a booster on the first shot), you are taking a risk. Natural immunity is not always the strongest immunity- that assumption is not necessarily true (and probably actually not true). But the info on this is murky. Anyone who tells you they know for sure is just mistaken.
      And finally, don’t forget about the whole concept of vaccines and public health. If enough people take a vaccine and the virus can’t easily spread. That protects those who cannot take a vaccine. We absolutely do take vaccines to protect others (even if we don’t know it). That’s why they are required at schools. They don’t require it to protect the individual kid, but rather to protect the community- the one kid who can’t take it or can’t mount an immune response. Those that opt out of vaccines like MMR are pretty much protected because of all the others who do take it. If no one took it everyone would easily catch measles (and although most of those alive today can’t remember- people die of measles). So it’s not just individual health issue, it a public health issue and the concept of communal public health is just not well respected in our country right now.

    2. Antibodies resulting from infection diminish in effectiveness after 3-4 months. Vaccines have *always* been taken to protect the community in addition to protecting oneself. If one makes the decision to refuse the vaccine the time has come to deny them a bed in the ICU/supplemental oxygen/ventilator.

      I no longer have sympathy for the unvaccinated. The quickest way to establish’herd immunity’ and get life back to normal is to let the unvaccinated die as quickly as possible.

      If nothing else it will reduce the number of stupid, arrogant asses (usually Republican) and make the community better for those of us left.

      1. Don’t lose hope in trying to convince the few remaining that are just scared or tremendously misinformed. But it is exhausting.

    3. Your well-written post is so very true and so very shared by many in our field. It’s a damn good breath of fresh air. Thank you! Stay safe and stay sane.

    4. Thank you for putting into words what I think and feel everyday!! We all have to remember that many of us wouldn’t even be here if our grandmother’s and great grandmother’s wouldn’t have vaccinated their children. Many of them would have climbed mountains in the snow with their children to get them vaccinated because they watched devastating viral diseases kill and maim their friends and family members. We are living in very entitled times where many people only think of themselves. YOU DON’T GET VACCINATED FOR YOU, YOU GET VACCINATED TO PROTECT THE ONES AROUND YOU THAT YOU LOVE AND CARE ABOUT!!! Its’ really not ALL ABOUT YOU!!!

      Everyday, I continue to fight for those that are legitimately scared and try to encourage them to be vaccinated, but for the others…….if you do get Covid and could have been vaccinated, I have ZERO sympathy for you. Please stay home and fight your fight alone so you don’t infect one of my vaccinated co-workers who could then infect their young children at home who cannot yet be vaccinated.

  2. For somebody claiming and making yourself out to be some kind of virtuous hero who is so full of kindness and compassion, everything you said in this article and reading between the lines really shows your true colors with you being quite an insensitive arrogant cold know it all jerk. Stop acting better than people and stop acting like you are smarter than everyone and know everything. Try doing something important with your time instead of writing ridiculous stupid and pointless articles about your opinion. Truly nobody cares what you think or feel on the matter. Just do your job and shutup

    1. I appreciate you reading and commenting on something so pointless:) Do stay safe my friend.

  3. You are just an uncaring bitch. Why are you even in the medical field. You are jaded and should no longer be taking care of people.

  4. Why are you so full of hate? Reading this you’re reply’s are hateful. This piece only reflects you. YOU are not ALL medical professionals. Some Drs are refusing the vax as they are seeing it doesn’t matter if you are vaxed or not. Masked or not. People are getting this “new” variety regardless. It’s MY BODY. MY CHOICE. No amount of bullying will make me think I need to get a vax. If I choose it. I will because of that. Period. Not worried.

    1. I doubt it is hate. More like compassion fatigue from battling at the front lines during a politically polarized fight on the front lines and getting tired of hearing misinformation about the science leading to death and depletion of physical and human resources. The evidence is overwhelming that being vaccinated during the Delta variant surge is very beneficial to survival.

    2. Walk a day in his or her shoes or crack those ribs yourself and then reevaluate your response to this artfully written original post.

  5. Wow! So if you want to play that game, how far do we take this? Diabetes, some heart disease, obesity and some cancers are preventable. The list goes on! The ones I mentioned clog up the health care system tremendously due to neglect from the patient. Patients are warned over and over before they become a full blown diabetic, but those cases are ok? Nothing but trash food was promoted during the entire pandemic, even bribes of doughnuts to get a shot. Are you not going to be sympathetic to all these? Or is it just covid due to those holding off on the vaccine? Have we learned nothing from prescription medication injuries? Those sometimes take years to discover serious complications or injuries and you want everyone to jump on board and get this injection? Vitamin D has been an epidemic for years, it should be considered a pandemic because of how many people are deficient. We don’t hear widespread information stating Vitamin d deficiency has an important role in contracting covid. Do we not want to put out there pre treatment methods of possible prevention or do we rely on drugs and vaccines to “cure” us? It is not my job to “save” someone by putting on a mask or get a vaccine, that doesn’t stop transmission, just because they are in poor health because of their horrible health choices. I do understand some people are tremendously ill and it wasn’t due to their neglect, those individuals need to make their own choices as far as what’s safe for them. You should know from being in healthcare not everyone can have the same medical interventions, this includes the covid vaccine and masks. I cannot have the vaccine, I’m ok with being in public. We all take risks. If you think the health care system should decide which diseases or illnesses to treat, maybe it’s time for a new career.

    A health care worker

    1. You are absolutely correct. It is very easily to go down that slippery slope. But remember having or not having sympathy for someone in no affects how well you treat them. In health care we will give even a Nazi racist drug seeker drunk driver the best available treatment. The medical team however probably won’t take the suffering home with them as they would with their pediatric oncology patient. (As you do sometimes carry the pain of your patients as I’m sure you already know as a health care worker). Actually just so you know, every patient I’ve seen who was sick with COVID got lots of Vitamin D (some py would survive others died). You’re probably correct on the pandemic of lack of Vitamin D- however there are plenty of folks with full Vitamin D who get super sick. I am curious what is the reason you believe you can’t get the vaccine? There are very very few contraindications. Vaccination will always be your choice. But you should be prepared that soon it looks like most health acre facilities won’t let a person work there without vaccinations and I’m willing to bet will be super strict with opt outs – so you should be prepared for those consequences. Stay safe

  6. Well don’t you have egg on your face…
    COVId is not a preventable disease the “vaccine” doesn’t work like they thought. 75% of people in an outbreak in MI where vaccinated! There are treatments however that I am sure you as a Doctor won’t prescribe them. As a Doctor you take an oath to “first do no harm” and as it stands this “vaccine” is showing to be worthless and actually causing people more harm and killing them.
    Also by using your logic there are many people that come to the hospital that you shouldn’t treat since they actually have preventable diseases such as obesity, HIV, hepatitis and of course those drunk drivers you treat after they have been in an accident!
    Many it’s time for you to get out of medicine!

    1. Thanks for the note. Just so you know- the vaccine won’t completely prevent people from getting COVID (if fact I think almost everyone vaccinated or not will end up getting it). The only thing it can do is help you not get so sick. Virtually no one who is vaccinated is getting critically ill. So not worthless. You are correct about commenting that it is possible for other preventable diseases to also develop a lack of sympathy. It is a slippery slope. (although I would say there is already little sympathy for drunk drivers). Gotta be careful not to do that- but that is what happens during burnout which everyone is feeling. But just so you know, we still feel bad for all people with COVID- it’s just not the same pain we all felt last year.

  7. Wow I would say this person thinks they are superior to everyone who does not think the same. Also they should NOT be in the medical firld because we are there to care for everyone no matter if they lead an unhealthy life and ended up with health problems, regardless of race, religion, life choices..ect.. We are there to serve and not make judgement. A few mental health therapy sessions might help this individual because the issues are very obvious in the article.

    1. If you can care for people and never ever judge them you are a better person than I- and actually quite superior than most of your colleagues who struggle with containing their exhaustion with folks who refuse the vaccine (the best help out there now) and then get sick and the show up at the ER asking for help. Now they have to suck up hospital resources from the poor guy who just got diagnosed with cancer or in a car wreck when they could have prevented it all from just taking a shot in the arm No one is saying any person once they show up is going to get less treatment- that isn’t happening.

  8. Profound moment in the writing is the point that each person sees self as the “star at center stage” but that individualism is an illusion. We are each a part of the larger population and thus accountable to the greater good. The level of ecological humanity is often what puts us into our own now-polarizing camp. Often, it is the same people who don’t want a mask mandate that don’t want clean water protection or endangered species protection. Your writing is so helpful in finding some focus and coping in today’s complexity. Thank you!

  9. As a COVID RN I could not agree more with this piece! Bravo for putting into words what many of us are feeling right now at the bedside. Nurses, RTs, NACs, and other HC Providers are leaving the bedside in droves because of these selfish people. How sad that one day it may be a reality that there are no more hospital staffed beds for people who desperately need them……

  10. I worked in the Heath care field for 46 years. I retired 2 years ago due my husband’s critical illness and now ongoing care needed. I worked in Critical Care for the majority of my career.. I returned to school and became Family NP , leaving the bedside for the remainder of my career. I have seen how critically ill people can be. I did miss the outbreak of COVID, by a couple of months. I believe that health care providers at almost all levels are the most giving and caring people on earth. However, everyone has their limit. Burnout, giving above and beyond without being able to take the time to rest and replenish ourselves can occur without a pandemic. I honestly don’t know how Health Care workers are even still standing. Now to see the new variant rise and put everyone at risk again is both frightening and infuriating. My husband is at risk, due to a compromised immune system. Decisions made by others not to get vaccinated directly effect us. It directly effects every health care provider every single day. As an individual, no longer providing direct care, I AM angry that we are all being placed at risk. We as a society ARE interdependent. We are all connected. And honestly, it is easy for me to understand why anyone working in the middle of this second round of COVID would be short on sympathy for those that could have saved themselves, but chose not only not to save themselves, but also place others at risk. Because whether anyone knows it or not, it is painful to witness the death of any human being, no matter how one feels about them. That is what we are asking of those in this arena now. And that is after they have worked their fingers to the bone to try and save them. I have empathy for this physician and for everyone else working right now. I’m certainly not going to condemn them for having human emotions. We are blessed that they even show up for work on a daily basis.

  11. Well written and I can certainly relate. The fatigue is real. Hopefully we can keep changing minds, even if it is one at a time. Stay well and keep fighting the good fight. There are so many of us who are fighting right along with you.

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