Voices of the Peninsula: We are all victims of COVID-19

It is disturbing to hear, as a triage nurse, the many reasons cited for not getting a vaccine that are based on misinformation.

Steve Hughes. (Photo provided)

Steve Hughes. (Photo provided)

By Steve Hughes

This week Alaska claimed the nation’s top spot for the most positive cases per capita from COVID-19. More Alaskans are dying from COVID-19. Most, if not all, of these fellow citizens died because they were unvaccinated. The evidence is irrefutable that the unvaccinated are 11 times more likely to be hospitalized and die than those who have received a vaccine. Yet, these statistics have failed to sway many of the vaccine eligible in our Alaska communities, some of which have not even achieved 50% compliance.

It is a fact that COVID-19 has now killed more Americans than the Spanish Influenza.

It is a fact that the delta variant is now claiming more lives than at any time previously since this pandemic began.

It is a fact that there is no end in sight and the longer COVID-19 is prolific, there are greater chances for new mutations and even more deadly variants to occur.

Despite these facts, many of us still refuse to get a vaccine.

It is disturbing to hear, as a triage nurse, the many reasons cited for not getting a vaccine that are based on misinformation. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, just not their own facts. Facts are facts and verifiable, rational knowledge should not be undermined by hearsay, conspiracy theories, or other unquantifiable and untested ideas. It seems increasingly apparent that a large proportion of the populace is unwilling or incapable of changing their mind about getting a vaccine.

It is for this reason I am appealing to health care leadership to mandate vaccination for staff who work in patient care. I hope our hospital boards, CEOs and the majority of those in influential decision-making roles are less likely to be victims of misinformation. We should not have to wait for federal guidance and decide on the basis of Medicare funding. If we are in the life-saving business and wish to operate with the integrity that has been entrusted to us, it is the right thing to do.

The unprecedented pressure and demands for scarce resources caused by treating COVID-19 patients have now created a state of “Crisis Standards” for hospitals, producing “rationing” situations where patient care may be prioritized so those most likely to survive will have the best chance.

Alaska has recently contracted with outside agencies for more resources to help with our rising cases. But in the end, more nurses, more doctors, more respiratory therapists, more ventilators and more rooms are not gong to bring this pandemic under control. Vaccinations will.

Institutions should lead by example; they are morally obligated to provide the best and safest care possible. To allow unvaccinated staff to care for our most in need and compromised patients is unconscionable. Vaccinated staff are less likely to become COVID-19 positive and infect others. They are better equipped to stay healthy themselves and protect their patients and fellow staff. This is not discriminatory. It is common sense.

No doubt, some will cry foul, saying mandating vaccines will violate their personal freedom, but I hope they can try and understand that true freedom does not come at the cost of taking another’s freedom. Let’s not forget who the true victims are here — all of us.

None of us will enjoy the freedoms we have been used to until we get this pandemic under control. Vaccination is the best tool we have to accomplish that.

Steve Hughes has worked as an emergency room nurse at South Peninsula Hospital for more than 30 years.

More in Opinion

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President Nathan Erfurth works in his office on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Now is the time to invest in Kenai Peninsula students

Parents, educators and community members addressed the potential budget cuts with a clear message.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: An accurate portrayal of parental rights isn’t controversial

Affirming and defining parental rights is a matter of respect for the relationship between parent and child

Opinion: When the state values bigotry over the lives of queer kids

It has been a long, difficult week for queer and trans Alaskans like me.

Dr. Sarah Spencer. (Photo by Maureen Todd and courtesy of Dr. Sarah Spencer)
Voices of the Peninsula: Let’s bring opioid addiction treatment to the Alaskans who need it most

This incredibly effective and safe medication has the potential to dramatically increase access to treatment

Unsplash / Louis Velazquez
Opinion: Fish, family and freedom… from Big Oil

“Ultimate investment in the status quo” is not what I voted for.

An orphaned moose calf reared by the author is seen in 1970. (Stephen F. Stringham/courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Maximizing moose productivity on the Kenai Peninsula

Maximum isn’t necessarily optimum, as cattle ranchers learned long ago.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The time has come to stop Eastman’s willful and wanton damage

God in the Bible makes it clear that we are to care for the vulnerable among us.

Caribou graze on the greening tundra of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska in June, 2001. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: AIDEA’s $20 million-and-growing investment looks like a bad bet

Not producing in ANWR could probably generate a lot of money for Alaska.

A fisher holds a reel on the Kenai River near Soldotna on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: King salmon closures long overdue

Returns have progressively gone downhill since the early run was closed in June 2012

Most Read