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This Alabama doctor says COVID-19 patients beg her for the vaccine at the end of their lives — but it’s too late

Unvaccinated people continue to see the rise of the delta variant

A custodian mops the floor in East Alabama Medical Center.
A custodian mops the floor in East Alabama Medical Center’s intensive care unit Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Opelika, Ala.
Julie Bennett, Associated Press

Dr. Brytney Cobia, a physician at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama, has seen tragedy play out before her. Again and again.

A young person will come into the hospital with a serious COVID-19 infection. They’re sick. They’re coughing, can’t breathe, they have a fever — all the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. The patient reaches out their hand to her. She takes it.

They beg her for the vaccine.

But Cobia, tragically, can’t do anything. Time has run out. The vaccine won’t help.

“I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late,” she wrote in a recent Facebook post.

Cobia is speaking out on social media about her experience to encourage people to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. She said she has seen too many people beg her for the vaccine at the end of their lives when it is too late for them to get vaccinated.

Alabama has the lowest vaccination rate in the country, according to data from the Mayo Clinic. Recently, the state has seen a rise in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths because of the highly contagious delta variant, which is hitting younger age groups more aggressively, according to The Boston Globe.

And Cobia’s patients are mostly unvaccinated. In fact, Cobia told AL.com that only one of her patients had been fully vaccinated. The vaccinated patient needed oxygen but they were expected to recover.

The unvaccinated patients, she said, are dying.

Across the country, experts have been worried about the spread of the delta variant and its impact on the unvaccinated.

Bruce Vanderhoff, the chief medical officer for the Ohio Department of Health, said at a news conference that it’s only a matter of time before unvaccinated people get the novel coronavirus. In fact, he said it’s boiling down to a simple choice — get fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or get COVID-19.

“It is really now just a matter of time,” Vanderhoff said, according to The Hill. “It is when, not if, an unvaccinated individual develops COVID-19.”

“Either you get vaccinated or you are going to get COVID-19,” he added.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said this weekend that unvaccinated people are risking the worst virus of their lives.

“And for most people who get this delta variant, it’s going to be the most serious virus that they get in their lifetime in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital,” Gottlieb told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

But Cobia has found a way to turn the negative into something more. She speaks immediately with the patient’s family about what happened and encourages them to get vaccinated.

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

She added, “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. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t.”

The parents will thank her and go get the vaccine, she said.

“And I go back to my office,” she said, “write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.”