Despite three COVID-19 vaccines having been made widely available for free, most people in Alabama are choosing to not get them. Only 33.7 percent of people in the state are fully vaccinated, Advance Local reports.
That's already having disastrous consequences. Cases of COVID-19 are surging across the state, in large part due to the more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.
In a grim twist, some severely ill COVID-19 patients are apparently begging healthcare workers for a shot on their dying bed.
"I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections," wrote Brytney Cobia, a physician at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, in a soul-crushing Facebook post on Sunday.
"One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine," she wrote. "I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late."
It's especially confounding situation because we know vaccines work. While breakthrough cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, those who are fully vaccinated mostly only experience mild symptoms, or none at all.
For those who chose to get vaccinated, COVID-19 is usually equivalent to nothing more than a mild cold. For those who refused the vaccine, though, the Delta variant is as vicious as ever — and can easily put them in mortal danger.
The numbers tell a clear story: 96 percent of Alabamians who died of COVID since April were not fully vaccinated, Advance Local reports. And 94 percent of COVID hospital patients were also not fully vaccinated.
It's the result of pervasive misinformation, mostly online.
The obvious message that hasn't been made clear enough in many parts of the country: get vaccinated now or risk getting hospitalized.
"A few days later when I call time of death, 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 in her Facebook post. "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 as sick."
The situation in Alabama is likely to get worse soon.
"All these kids are about to go back to school," Cobia told Advance Local. "No mask mandates are in place at all, 70 percent of Alabama is unvaccinated. Of course, no kids are vaccinated for the most part because they can’t be."
"So it feels like impending doom, basically," she added.
So what can we do when we encounter those who refuse the vaccine despite the insurmountable mountain of evidence? Cobia suggests asking why they haven't gotten their shot "in the least judgmental way possible," she told AL. "And the one question that I always ask them is, did you make an appointment with your primary care doctor and ask them for their opinion on whether or not you should receive the vaccine?"
"And so far, nobody has answered yes to that question," Cobia said.
READ MORE: ‘I’m sorry, but it’s too late’: Alabama doctor on treating unvaccinated, dying COVID patients [Advance Local]
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