NMHS forms coalition for COVID-19 vaccination for area physicians to share vaccine facts and the personal toll the pandemic has taken on them
"You're worth a shot"
TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take an emotional and physical toll on doctors and nurses in Mississippi as the state’s number of cases rise and its vaccination rate remains low.
“It is tragic for us to hear (patients) say before they pass, ‘if only I’d been vaccinated,'” says North Mississippi Health Services Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeremy Blanchard. “We are living with that. We live with every death. We live with every decision that you make.”
As of Wednesday morning, NMHS is treating 102 COVID patients across their hospital system. Since July 1, 2021, every one of their patients who has died of COVID has been unvaccinated.
“There are days where I might be angry,” Dr. Blanchard says. “Angry that people aren’t getting vaccinated because I know the pain it’s causing them and the people trying to take care of them. There are going to be days where I feel sad because we’ve had an incredible loss.”
In their latest effort to prevent more of those losses, Dr. Blanchard and a team of area physicians have formed the North Mississippi Physicians Coalition for COVID-19 Vaccination.
“Every single physician is a human being and they have a personal story,” Dr. Blanchard says. “Like every other human being and resident of Mississippi, they have lost someone. They have had someone affected.”
Dr. Blanchard says that he hopes that by having medical professionals share their personal stories and accurate information about the vaccine, they can move people to take the steps necessary to help end the pandemic.
The group has released three videos during the week, each one featuring a different medical professional sharing a story about how COVID-19 has touched their lives.
“If you could prevent the virus from killing your mother, or your brother, or your sister or your nephew or your niece, or even someone you don’t know, wouldn’t you do that?” former NMHS Chief Medical Officer C.K. White asked in the first video.
“I learned this week that my daughter has COVID,” Barry Bertolet, an interventional cardiologist with Cardiology Associates of North Mississippi said in their second video.
“My children being in school and wanting them to be in-person and having that experience, I wanted them to get the vaccine,” pediatric dentist Trice Sumner of Children’s Dental Clinic said in their third video.
“These are men and women who have dedicated their lives to caring for others and have been trained to evaluate research and literature in a scientific and evidence-based fashion,” Dr. Blanchard says.
He says he sees this movement as an extension of his oath to “do no harm.”
“We want to honor you by giving you our best advice, even when you don’t like it and it’s hard,” he says.