‘It’s too late’: Alabama doctor says patients dying of COVID-19 are asking for vaccine

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — An Alabama doctor is urging skeptics to get their COVID-19 vaccine shots, saying that she’s had young, healthy people suffering from serious COVID-19 infections beg to be vaccinated.

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“One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine,” Dr. Brytney Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, wrote Sunday in a social media post. “I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

Alabama has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, according to state health data. Officials said that as of Tuesday, the last date for which data was available, only about 39% of Alabama’s population had received at least one dose of the available COVID-19 vaccines. About 31% of the population has so far been fully vaccinated. For comparison, about 56% of the U.S. population has gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, while about 49% are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

>> Related: Coronavirus: Texas hospital system confirms its 1st case of COVID-19 lambda variant

On Monday, Cobia told AL.com that all but one of her COVID-19 patients have been unvaccinated. On social media, she described speaking to families who’ve lost loved ones to the viral infection.

“I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same,” Cobia wrote.

“They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get sick. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they are wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t.”

>> Related: Coronavirus: US life expectancy plunged 1.5 years in 2020 amid COVID-19 pandemic

Earlier this month, officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health said that 96% of people who have died recently of COVID-19 were unvaccinated, according to WBRC. Similar numbers have been reported across the country. In May, 99.2% of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths reported nationwide were in unvaccinated people, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

Cobia told AL.com that treating unvaccinated patients with COVID-19 can be emotionally turbulent.

>> Related: Coronavirus: ‘This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,’ CDC director says

“You kind of go into it thinking, ‘Okay, I’m not going to feel bad for this person, because they make their own choice,’” Cobia said. “But then you actually see them, you see them face to face, and it really changes your whole perspective, because they’re still just a person that thinks that they made the best decision that they could with the information that they have, and all the misinformation that’s out there.”

Nearly 564,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported across Alabama, resulting in more than 11,400 deaths, according to ADPH.

>> Related: Coronavirus: Delta variant accounts for 83% of sequenced COVID-19 cases in US, CDC director says

The United States leads the world with the most coronavirus cases and the highest death toll. Since the start of the pandemic, officials have confirmed more than 34.2 million infections and reported more than 609,000 deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 192.1 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, resulting in 4.1 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

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