A physician in Miami has told her patients that she will not treat them if they remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 starting later this month.
Doctors and nurses in coronavirus hot spots around the country have been grappling with the stress of treating a barrage of preventable cases, given that nearly all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are occurring in the unvaccinated.
Dr. Linda Marraccini, who runs a primary care practice, cited the effectiveness of the three vaccines currently available in the U.S. and the enormous strain that unvaccinated COVID-19 patients are putting on the Florida health care system in an email to her patients, which was published by NBCMiami.
More business establishments are requiring people who enter to show proof of vaccination after the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine in late August. There are usually exceptions to those requirements for religious or medical concerns ― although Marraccini cast doubt on the prevalence of medical exemptions.
“In our practice we find almost no one that cannot take one of the vaccines for medical reasons,” Marraccini wrote.
“This is a public health emergency ― the health of the public takes priority over the rights of any given individual in this situation. It appears that there is a lack of selflessness and concern for the burden on the health and well-being of our society from our encounters,” read her email. HuffPost was not able to reach Marraccini’s office by phone.
Although Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has said that he aims to fine schools, businesses and government agencies $5,000 for mandating COVID-19 vaccination, a medical practice like Marraccini’s would not be among them. A spokesperson for DeSantis told The Washington Post that the governor’s office does not “endorse or agree with” the doctor’s decision ― calling it “a type of discrimination” ― but said it does not break the law. DeSantis’s office did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Patients will need to have at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 15 to continue receiving services at Marraccini’s office. She said she would treat unvaccinated patients for one month ― but only remotely ― while they look for a new physician.
Marraccini also addressed some misconceptions about the vaccine and available COVID-19 treatments in her note to patients.
“Smallpox and Polio were not eradicated by herd immunity ― they were essentially eliminated by universal vaccination,” she said. “Smallpox was eradicated by mandatory immunization. It is possible we may never reach herd immunity if vaccine resistance (continued mutations) continues.”
Over the last month, new coronavirus cases and deaths in Florida reached their highest peak since the pandemic began, although they now appear to be declining once again. Hospital staff and health care resources have been stretched to the brink as COVID-19 patients ― largely unvaccinated ones ― fill beds that people with other serious conditions need as well.
Mary Mayhew, president of the Florida Hospital Association, told PBS late last month that the toll the COVID-19 crisis has taken on hospital staff may be causing post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The physical and mental exhaustion that our nurses and our staff have been under, when you’re dealing with patients who are lining the halls on stretchers, when you are having to find a hospital in some other part of the state that can take a patient, and you’re calling day in and day out to find those beds,” Mayhew said.
In August, Dr. Jason Valentine ― a doctor specializing in family medicine at the Infirmary Health Diagnostic and Medical Clinic in Saraland, Alabama ― made similar headlines for notifying patients he would not see them until they got their coronavirus shots.