Doctors become frustrated with COVID-19 denial and misinformation


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The COVID-19 patient’s health was deteriorating rapidly in a Michigan hospital, but he had no doctor’s diagnosis. Despite dangerously low oxygen levels, the unvaccinated man didn’t think he was so sick and was so angry at a hospital policy forbidding his wife from being at his bedside that he threatened to leave the hospital. building.

Dr Matthew Trunsky did not hesitate to respond, “You can leave, but you will be dead before you get to your car,” he said.

Such exchanges have become all too common for medical workers who are increasingly growing weary of the denial and misinformation of COVID-19 that has made the treatment of unvaccinated patients maddening during the delta flare.

The Associated Press asked six doctors from across the country to describe the types of misinformation and denial they see on a daily basis and how they respond to it.

They describe being made worse by constant demands for the prescription of the veterinary antiparasitic drug Ivermectin, with patients lashing out at doctors when told it is not a safe treatment for coronaviruses. An Illinois family doctor asks patients to tell him microchips are being incorporated into vaccines as part of a scheme to steal people’s DNA. A Louisiana doctor resorted to showing patients a list of ingredients in Twinkies, reminding those who are skeptical about the makeup of vaccines that everyday products contain many safe additives that no one really understands.

Here are their stories:

LOUISIANA DOCTOR: “Stop looking at Facebook”

When patients tell Dr Vincent Shaw that they don’t want the COVID-19 vaccine because they don’t know what’s going on in their bodies, he displays a Twinkie’s ingredient list.

“Look on the back of the package,” Shaw, a family doctor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “Tell me you can say everything on the back of this package.” Because I have a degree in chemistry, I still don’t know what it is.

He also often hears patients telling him that they haven’t done enough research on vaccines. Rest assured, he told them, the vaccine developers have done their homework.

Then there are the marginal explanations: “They put on a tracker and it makes me magnetic.”

Another explanation left him speechless: “The patient could not understand why they were giving this to him for free, because humanity itself is not nice and people are not nice and no one would give anything. There is therefore no good nature inherent in man. And I haven’t had any feedback from that.

People who get sick with mild cases insist that they have natural immunity. “No, you are not a Superman or a Superwoman,” he told them.

Learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic

He said one of the biggest issues was social media, as evidenced by the many patients who describe what they saw on Facebook deciding not to get the vaccine. This mindset spawned memes about the many Americans who graduated from Facebook University’s medical school.

“I’m like ‘No, no, no, no, no.’ I shake my head, “No, no. It’s not fair, no, no. Stop, stop, stop watching Facebook.” “

DALLAS ER DOCTOR: Baffled by how he has “lost all credibility” with anti-vaccine patients

Dr Stu Coffman asks patients to tell him that they are afraid of the side effects of vaccines. They don’t trust the regulatory approval process and raise refuted concerns that the vaccine will harm their fertility. He said the most unexpected thing someone had told him was that there was “actually poison in the mRNA vaccine” – a baseless rumor that originated online.

He is bewildered by the repression.

“If you have a gunshot or stab wound or have a heart attack you want to see me in the emergency room,” he said. “But as soon as we start talking about a vaccine, all of a sudden I lost all credibility.”

He said the key to overcoming hesitation is understanding where it comes from. He said that when people come to him with concerns about fertility, he can report specific research showing that the vaccine is safe and their problems are unfounded.

But he says there is no hope of changing the minds of people who think vaccines are poisonous. “I probably can’t show you anything that convinces you otherwise.”

And he thinks he could change people’s minds about the vaccine if they could keep up with him for a shift as he walks past the beds of the sick and dying, almost all of whom are not vaccinated.

KENTUCKY: political opinions become clearer after diagnosis

Dr. Ryan Stanton recently had a patient who started his conversation by saying, “I’m not afraid of any Chinese viruses. From that point on, he knew what he was up against to deal with the patient’s politics and mistaken beliefs about the virus.

Stanton blamed people like far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for spreading some of the misinformation that has taken hold among his patients. Among them, the vaccine contains fetal cells. Another said that “it is a simple fact that the vaccine has killed millions of people”.

“In fact,” he said, “it couldn’t be more from the truth.”

It’s hard to watch, especially after experiencing the first outbreaks. On his worst shift last fall, an elderly nursing home patient arrived on the brink of death. She hadn’t seen her family in months, so staff took her outside to the ambulance bay so her loved ones could say goodbye from 20 feet away. He took a photo of the scene to remember the horror.

There was hope after the vaccines arrived, but then came the delta variant and slower vaccinations.

“Really amazes me how many people have this huge fear, this vaccine conspiracy theory and who, honestly to God, will try anything, including a vet drug, to get better,” said Stanton.

MICHIGAN PULMONOLOGIST: Facebook post sparks frustration

For Trunsky, the vaccine setback has become so intense that he took to Facebook to describe the anger he faces daily at his hospital in Troy, Michigan. The post listed eight encounters he had had in the previous two days alone in which COVID-19 patients explained misinformation-fueled reasons for not getting the vaccine or requested unproven treatments.

Example # 5 was a patient who said he would rather die than be vaccinated. Response from Trunsky: “You can get your wish.”

He has heard a litany of misinformation about the vaccine: They say it is unproven and only experimental when in fact it is not. Others tell him the vaccine is “a personal choice and the government shouldn’t tell me what to do.” He also heard patients tell them they were too sick and didn’t want to risk the side effects of the vaccine. A young mother told her she was not vaccinated because she was breastfeeding, even though her pediatrician and obstetrician told her it was safe. She had to be hospitalized but was eventually vaccinated.

Others, however, express their anger at health care providers. Some threaten to call lawyers if they don’t get a prescription for ivermectin, commonly used by vets to kill worms and parasites. The drug can cause harmful side effects and there is little evidence that it helps with the coronavirus.

He estimates that he has treated 100 patients who have died since the start of the pandemic, including the man who threatened to be discharged from hospital.

ILLINOIS FAMILY DOCTOR: Nicki Minaj traces misinformation back to Scripture

Dr Carl Lambert hears a lot of savage misinformation from his patients. Some come from interpretations of the Bible; some are from rapper Nicki Minaj.

Some of them are Internet conspiracy theories, as if there was a microchip in the vaccine that would grab their DNA.

“Scientifically impossible,” says the Chicago family doctor. He also overhears patients telling him that the vaccine will weaken their immune systems. He replies, “Immunology 101. Vaccines help your immune system.

Recently, he received a flurry of messages from patients worried about damage to their testicles – a rumor he ultimately traced to a spurious tweet from Minaj alleging the vaccine causes impotence.

“And I was like, ‘This is weird. It’s a bit outrageous. So a lot of advice that I didn’t expect to be given.

Some of the disinformation is being transmitted from above the pulpit, he said. People sent him preaching sermons saying that the vaccine is “ungodly or has something in it that will mark you,” a reference to a verse in Revelation about the “mark of the beast” that some Christians quote in not getting vaccinated.

“There’s a mixture of almost scary… and of saying, ‘Hey, if you’re doing that, maybe you’re not as faithful as you should be as, say, a Christian.

The most common, however, is that patients just want to wait, uncomfortable with how quickly the vaccine has been developed. But he warns them, “Please don’t try to wait until a pandemic is over. A pandemic will win. ”

He said his job was “largely to dismantle what people heard”, answer their questions and reassure them that “vaccines work like this, like when we were kids.”

He’s been lucky lately to change his mind. “I have had patients who, maybe four months ago, said to me, ‘You are wasting your time. Doctor Lambert, I don’t want to hear you talk about it. And they’ll come back and say, ‘Hey, you know what? I watched the news. I saw stuff. I think I’m ready now.

UTAH DOCTOR: Fear of vaccine side effects, then fear of dying

When Dr Elizabeth Middleton explains to COVID-19 patients why they are not vaccinated, they often cite fear of side effects. But as they get sicker and sicker, another kind of fear sets in.

“They kind of have that dark look on them, like, ‘Oh, my God. It happens to me. I should have been vaccinated, ”said the pulmonary intensive care physician at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.

She often hears that the vaccine was developed too quickly. “Who are you to judge the speed of science? ” She wonders.

The idea among some patients that there is a “secret agenda” behind vaccination is also frustrating.

“There must be something wrong if everyone is forcing us to do this or if everyone wants us to do it,” the patients tell her. “And my response to that is, ‘They are urging you to do it because we are in an emergency. It is a pandemic. It is a national and international crisis. This is why we are pushing it.

Communicating with patients and their families is a “tricky line,” she says. She tries not to disrupt the patient-doctor relationship by pushing the vaccines too hard. But often people who have been on ventilators don’t need to be convinced.

“They’re like, ‘Tell everyone they need to be vaccinated. I want to call my family. They must be vaccinated.

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