An unvaccinated patient is lying on a hospital bed. Sick, dying of Covid, and realized too late that they should have gotten the plug.
Another, sick and panicked, asks if they can get the vaccination now. It’s too late, the doctor must tell them.
Even one gasping for air can not even find the weather to ask.
This is what Australia’s doctors and nurses are dealing with, on the front lines of the “pandemic of the unvaccinated”. People realize the seriousness of their mistakes, the results of believing in the misinformation that has been spread about vaccines, and the existence of Covid itself.
Others are too far down the rabbit hole to have that Damascene conversion at all. A nurse in Sydney tells the Guardian Australia about a man who did not believe Covid was real even though he was lying in a hospital bed.
“This guy just kept trying to escape, he was not on the breathing machine yet, he said, ‘Covid is not real. I do not know why I am here,'” the nurse said.
“He would go to go out, he would reach it five meters, and he would have to sit on the floor. And we offered him oxygen and said, ‘maybe you do not believe it, man, but you are not well’, and while he felt defeated, we would get him back to bed.
“Then we would give him medicine so he would get better and the circus would start all over again.”
Then there are family members who pressure doctors to prescribe fake drugs they have heard about online. The nurse says while the patients are in the intensive care unit that families might be “trying to go toe to toe” over the phone with the registrar and pushing for some unproven treatment.
Australia has long had its share of anti-waxers spreading misinformation. Much of the movement goes back to Andrew Wakefield, who mistakenly linked childhood vaccinations to autism. He was completely discredited, but still actively promotes misinformation.
Now, those who believe in a wide range of conspiracy theories have found new audiences online and merged into a strange mix with parts of the wellness industry. They have been driven by celebrities and by politicians.
Former US President Donald Trump reiterated the false claim of a link to autism, even though he received the Covid vaccine. He then notoriously undermined science by spraying unproven treatments (including bleach, ivermectin, and hydroxychloroquine, none of which work).
False treatments that give false hope, the rejection of public health measures on the basis of “freedom” and incorrect information have all led people away from the documented health advice, which is that vaccination is safe, effective and saves lives.
The misinformation sprouted in Australia, amplified by politicians including Liberal MP Gerard Rennick, LNP MP George Christensen and United Australia Party MP Craig Kelly.
It is the country’s health system that bears the consequences.
‘The doctors have to tell them it’s too late’
A nurse at a regional hospital in New South Wales says it is frustrating and outrageous to see sick, unvaccinated people.
“We’re pretty sad that people have chosen not to get vaccinated because of misleading information, and we’re at the forefront and have to take care of them. Wearing personal protective equipment is not fun, it’s not comfortable… it is a drain on resources, ”she says.
The Vice President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr. Chris Moy, says healthcare professionals are professionals who will naturally show compassion to any patient.
That does not stop the frustration as the exhausted workforce handles the extra burden of people denying science.
“People say ‘please give me the vaccine’ and the doctors have to tell them it’s too late,” says Moy.
“There is certainly no ‘I told you so’ and they will be compassionate with that individual, but nonetheless they wish these individuals had been able to talk to their former selves. To get past the thoughts , whatever it was that led to the decision not to be vaccinated.
“On a personal level, it’s frustrating to try very hard to provide proper scientific information to people so that they can hopefully make a decision to be vaccinated, not only for themselves, but to protect others. And at the same time, we are being attacked. . ”
Nearly 90% of Australians over 16 are fully vaccinated and hesitation is declining. The University of Melbourne reports through its Melbourne Institute that only 6.4% of Australians are now “vaccine hesitant”.
But in that vintage, there is a solid warlike butt. Thousands of people have attended so-called “freedom meetings” in protest of a package of Covid problems. Politicians, scientists and health workers around the world have been threatened for their work on vaccinations.
And while some do not like the term “pandemic of the unvaccinated” because the vaccinated can still get sick, the latest NSW statistics show that they are the minority of cases. About 85% of deaths and 94% of intensive care units are those that are not fully vaccinated. And the vast majority of cases are in those who have not been vaccinated at all.
Tim Leong, service director at Monash Health’s intensive care unit, says he has looked at the numbers across Melbourne’s major hospitals.
“It is far from a pandemic of unvaccinated. We can get data on who in the intensive care unit with Covid is double-vaccinated, and that is one patient,” he says.
“The rest are not vaccinated. That in itself tells the story.”
The ICU director at Royal Melbourne Hospital, Chris MacIsaac, repeats Leong. He says 95% of their patients are not fully vaccinated and there are cases where patients – and their loved ones – have been misinformed.
“They require a long period of time and discussion to help them understand,” he says.
Leong says when patients reach the intensive care unit, they gasp for breath: “They are often confused, they are far above it (asking for the vaccine).
“Occasionally there has been a patient who said, ‘If I had known, I would have had it.’ Most of all, I’ve seen people say, ‘I’m really scared, I’m really suffering, why can I not breathe? , I feel like I’m dying. ‘ “That’s what they’re thinking. It’s beyond that.”
Leong adds that not all of the unvaccinated are anti-wax, some have just not gotten around to it.
‘Not much more they can do’
Dr. Karen Price, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, says doctors in hospitals are burnt out, overworked and exhausted, but they dig deep and find compassion, even when people play “Russian roulette” with Covid.
“They roll them on to their stomachs so they can breathe and they ask for the vaccine and the doctors say it’s too late. At that point, there is not much more they can do,” Price says.
The GPs work hard, she says, trying to educate and inform their patients. To build trust and give people the right information.
It is appropriate for people to ask questions about healthcare, Price says, and GPs need to deal with the challenges that come with vulnerable patients, language barriers or low healthcare competencies.
“But that’s what we do every day,” she says.
Meanwhile, the new front in the vaccination wars and the “freedom” rhetoric is about mandates. The anti-mandate warriors are not explicitly anti-vaccination – yes, some say they support vaccination, but do not think they should be mandatory – but they appeal to those who are.
In November, five government senators crossed the floor to vote with One Nation on a bill for an anti-vaccination mandate. Rennick was joined by Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Matt Canavan and Sam McMahon, who tried to stop discrimination based on Covid vaccination status.
With them was also the Liberal Senator Alex Antic. Antic refuses to confirm or deny whether he has been vaccinated. When he returned to Adelaide from Canberra on Thursday, he was sent under hotel quarantine for two weeks. Vaccinated arrivals from low-risk areas, including Canberra, do not need to be quarantined.
The discovery of a new variant, Omicron, has further complicated the situation.
But despite some of the unknowns about Omicron, health officials say the best thing you can do to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated.
The nurse in the regional NSW says she is haunted by an unvaccinated patient.
“All I think about is the young man before we tubed him, and asked him, ‘Would you like to call your son, maybe this is the last time you talk to him?’ He did not have the energy. He could only speak basic words, ”she says.
“He was sent to Melbourne, he has gone to ECMO [the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, to oxygenate the blood]. You have to be pretty lucky to get from ECMO.
“I wanted to tell people that they should just be vaccinated,” she says.