NCH doctors: Misinformation fueling COVID surge

Desperate and emotional, doctors with a Southwest Florida health system are pleading for people to come together in a critical moment.

“Everybody keeps asking me ‘What can I do? What can I do to help?’ I say just go get the vaccine… we are having people die… and it is getting harder to come to work every day,” said Dr. Doug Harrington, a pulmonary critical care specialist with NCH.

An alarming number of younger COVID-19 patients are in the hospital as health leaders stand up against a dangerous threat: the spread of misinformation they say is fueling the preventable pandemic of the unvaccinated.

Now, NCH and Naples’ city leaders are calling on everyone to do their part to control the surge. They say if everyone would just get the vaccine, we’d get out of this.

“This is by far the most studied vaccine in history,” Harrington said, so don’t tell him it isn’t safe. In his opinion, it’s this misinformation that’s the real danger.

“The other concern is people say, ‘Well, it’s being incorporated into my DNA.’ Absolutely not true,” Harrington said. “It’s, ‘They’re tagging me with a chip, that they’re going to follow me around.’ Absolutely not true.”

Every day, he sees people who didn’t get the vaccine pour into his hospital. They suffer, and sometimes, they don’t get better. Again, in his opinion, for no good reason.

“We are having people die and it is getting harder to come to work every day when this was preventable,” he said.

This is clearly an emotional, life-or-death issue for Harrington. He and his team are caring for patients ages two to 100. Thirty-six of them are in intensive care.

“So that ability to see the patient and have days to get them on treatment is not in our hands anymore. It is now they come in the hospital and within 24 to 48 hours, they’re in the intensive care unit.”

Harrington and Chief Medical Officer Kristin Mascott said their patients wouldn’t be in critical condition, wouldn’t be fighting for their lives, if they’d just done their part. More than 90% of all COVID patients are not vaccinated.

“We implore the community to get the vaccine at this time. We have much science to support that,” Mascotti said. “Your chance of hospitalization is much reduced as well as your chance of death.”

“If you’re young, you’re healthy, you need to be vaccinated, and I think with the misinformation out there, you have to really carefully read and listen to what you see,” Harrington said.

As part of its effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, NCH and the City of Naples are promoting a joint program called “CommUNITY ImmUNITY.” They’re hoping those who are hesitant or afraid of getting the vaccine will take the time to check out the website so they can make an informed decision.

Reporter:Emma Heaton
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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