We are 18 months into an unprecedented event that has shown the less-than-flattering side of humanity. Here in the U.S., many people tend to put their personal freedoms ahead of doing what we can to keep our communities safe. I really thought we had seen it all. Anti-vaxxers end up on their deathbed, pleading for others to get the vaccine. Honestly, how many times does this have to happen before people understand? Well, apparently, a few more times.
Over the weekend, a labor and delivery unit in upstate New York (Lowville) was forced to pause its services. Why, you might ask? Is their power out? Are the machines malfunctioning? No. They’re pausing because they can’t staff the unit due to the plethora of nurses who quit because they don’t want to get vaccinated. Say it with me, y’all: what in the actual fuck?! I would say this is all happening as a result of President Biden’s vaccine mandate, but it’s not. For weeks private businesses have been coming out with vaccine requirements for employees, so really, it’s nothing new.
What is most shocking about all of this is that these are hospital employees. And I’m not talking about administrative staff or others who don’t have patient contact. These employees are nurses who are charged with caring for new parents and innocent newborns who haven’t yet built up their immune system. Truthfully, no one wins here. Nurses are unemployed, the hospital is understaffed, and expectant folks are forced to go elsewhere.
Make It Make Sense
Lewis County is one of the more politically conservative areas in New York. Translation? This county has lower vaccination rates, which means it also has more Covid infections when compared with the rest of the state. So really, are we surprised? I guess I am. These are nurses. These are medically trained professionals. They understand how vaccines work, or at least the very real science that goes into their development and testing, more so than Joe Schmo. How have they, in good conscience, been taking care of pregnant people and their new little ones without safeguarding themselves and their patients from this virus?
Yes, I know masking, proper PPE, and sanitizing are safeguards that can help mitigate risk. But why not take a free, scientifically researched resource (aka vaccine) to protect yourself? We did it for chicken pox, measles, polio, and many more—why can’t we do it for Covid? When did we start caring more about our own freedoms than doing what is right for everyone? That’s part of being a community. That is what it means to have humanity.
It is one thing to choose to not protect yourself, but it’s a whole other situation entirely to put other people at risk. And our medical professionals should absolutely not be the exception to this rule. Even if many of these nurses didn’t work directly with Covid patients, there is no way they haven’t seen the trauma and devastation Covid has caused. That is truly what is most confounding. As a medical professional, you have borne witness to the pandemic firsthand this entire time, and yet, you make a deliberate choice to not keep yourself and the people you care for safe.
Maybe It’s Better This Way?
I can’t imagine what it would be like to be told weeks before my due date that everything about my plans was changing. Though, if I’m being honest, if I knew that my labor and delivery nurse wasn’t vaccinated, I wouldn’t want them involved. So as much as this mass exodus is shaking up many birth plans, maybe it is for the best. Maybe we don’t want nurses who are willing to risk their own health, and the health of others, responsible for the health of our newborns.
There will be those who say that they are doing everything else to protect themselves and their patients from the virus. They follow all the other guidelines. But we know, after losing 500,000 Americans to Covid before the vaccine was widely available, that taking it makes a difference. Taking the vaccine saves lives — full stop. There is no way anyone can claim to not understand the tragic outcomes that result when Covid is left to ravage our communities. Knowing what you know and still choosing to forego vaccination might be your right, but it doesn’t mean the people you care for should be impacted.
Here is a thought: if you are so unconcerned with contracting Covid, switch departments from labor and delivery to the Covid unit. I mean, if you truly don’t believe that it’s any worse than the flu, go ahead — be the one to step in the middle of it all. In the meantime, to all the expectant parents who have had their delivery plans turned upside down because of this, don’t worry. Yes, I know it is easier said than done, but focus on what is in your control. Wear your mask, talk to your provider about all of your concerns. It will be okay. One way or another, your little one will be in your arms soon. Regardless of the insanity that is our world, their arrival is still a joyous event. Celebrate it, and enjoy that moment.