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Hospital CEOs plead: ‘Do your part and get vaccinated’

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The CEOs of Augusta Health and UVA Medical Center have a message for the community: the most recent COVID surge has their healthcare workers “at their breaking point.”

“For both our hospitals, the vast majority of our COVID patients are unvaccinated – this trend is being seen in critical care units in hospitals around the world. This has left our healthcare workers not just exhausted but heartbroken – heartbroken by caring for patients who are dying needlessly; patients who would have had different outcomes if they’d been vaccinated. So, we are coming together to ask you, our community members, to do your part and get vaccinated and boosted to show your respect and appreciation for our healthcare workers,” Augusta Health President and CEO Mary Mannix and UVA CEO Wendy Horton said in a joint statement.

Vaccination and boost rates are much better on the Piedmont side of the Blue Ridge than on the Valley side. Just 55.8 percent of Augusta County is fully vaccinated, and 23.6 percent has received a third dose as a booster; Albemarle County is at 75.9 percent fully vaccinated and 41.1 percent boosted, with the cities of Charlottesville, Staunton and Waynesboro falling in between on both measures.

Even in relatively protected Albemarle County, you’re looking at roughly a quarter of the population not fully vaccinated, and nearly six in 10 people lacking a third vaccine dose.

“Hospitalization rates for people 12 years and older who are not vaccinated are about 8 to 10 times higher than for those who are vaccinated, and we are seeing this same trend across our hospitals,” Mannix and Horton said in their joint statement. “Free COVID vaccines are proven to be safe and are incredibly effective at preventing severe COVID. The booster is not an ‘extra’ bonus shot; it is essential to attain maximum immunity against all current variants. Forgoing the vaccination and booster, quite simply, is prolonging this pandemic.

“If everyone in our community who is eligible becomes vaccinated and boosted, it would go a long way toward relieving the crisis our teams are facing daily in our clinics, emergency departments and inpatient units.”

Virginia Department of Health data for the week ending Jan. 15 actually has the hospitalization rate for unvaccinated Virginians at a rate 33.8 times that of fully vaccinated people, with those who are unvaccinated also being 34.2 times more likely than fully vaccinated people to develop COVID in the first place.

“We need your help,” the CEOs said. “We ask you to step up right now. Our team members are facing the most serious challenge we’ve seen during this pandemic: the Omicron variant. Overwhelming our clinics and hospitals, Omicron is more contagious, easier to transmit and has caused the largest surge in COVID cases to date. With more patients with COVID in our hospitals to care for and fewer staff members to help – because they too have COVID – this latest surge is putting our ability to care for everyone in the community who needs our help in jeopardy.”

Story by Chris Graham

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