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"We Are Struggling:" Eugene Docs Plead With Community To Get Vaccinated

Dr. Sarah Coleman

Thirty-seven Eugene Emergency Physicians have signed an open letter to the community. In it, they confront misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine and describe the dire state of area hospitals at this point in the pandemic.

Powerless. That’s how Dr. Sarah Coleman sometimes feels when treating unvaccinated patients in the emergency room.

“I was having a shift where it was pretty disheartening,” she said. “I was seeing a lot of patients with COVID and when I asked them if they were vaccinated, they immediately shut me down.”

Coleman co-authored the open letter in an effort to reach people before they get sick—and ask them to be part of the solution by getting the vaccine. She said it is no longer a future threat that area hospitals will exceed capacity.

“We are there,” she said. “We have filled up our ICUs. We are strained and we are struggling.”

Coleman said over 96% of the COVID patients diagnosed at PeaceHealth Oregon hospitals were not fully vaccinated.

She said it is true that a vaccinated person can contract COVID-19 but it is exceedingly rare in the young and healthy.

“Also, symptoms will be very mild. We are not having to hospitalize nearly the amount who have been vaccinated,” insisted Colemen. “So it’s the difference between you know, feeling like you have a bad cold versus being hospitalized in the ICU on respiratory support and feeling like you’re drowning.”

Coleman said the number of new cases each day in Lane County is alarming and unsustainable.

“We can not keep going the direction we are going. We can not safely take care of this community without some help from the community to get vaccinated, to just help us out. We don’t have any more resources,” Coleman said.

The doctor thanks every person who has already made the decision to get immunized against coronavirus. She said when she asks, “have you been vaccinated?” and the answer is ‘yes,’ it is the only positive note in her workday.

Here is the full letter:

Dear Community Member:  

We are asking for a moment of your time on behalf of  Eugene Emergency Physicians, a group of 37  emergency medicine physicians and 13 physician  assistants (PAs) contracted with PeaceHealth. We cover  the RiverBend, University District, and Cottage Grove  Emergency Departments.  

For 30 years, we have cared for this community. We live  here, our children attend school here, we see you in the  grocery store. Please believe us when we tell you that  we have the community’s best interest at heart, because  it is our community as well. You have trusted us to care  for you.  

This pandemic has tested us like never before. We have  been front line witnesses from the beginning. Every  physician and PA in our group has been voluntarily  vaccinated for months and has looked on with sadness  and despair as public health has become polarized. We  have chosen to speak out in order to lend our voice to  the growing cry for vaccinations to protect our  community.  

We are appreciative and fully supportive of the recent  PeaceHealth initiative to require Covid-19 vaccinations  for health care workers. We state unequivocally that  vaccinations are our best hope to keep our community  safe. If you have chosen not to be vaccinated, we  strongly ask you to reconsider. If you have questions or 

concerns about the vaccine, please reach out to a  trusted health care provider, Lane County Public Health,  or ask us if you see us.  

As of August 18, PeaceHealth Oregon hospitals have  diagnosed 1,037 patients with Covid-19 in 2021. Of  those, more than 96 percent were not fully vaccinated.  Although it is possible to contract Covid-19 following  vaccination, it is clear that the chances of hospitalization  or death are exponentially lower.  

We are running out of hospital beds in our state. We  may soon be unable to adequately care for patients  needing surgery for other ailments or treat medical  conditions unrelated to Covid-19. We are rapidly losing  the ability to care for all of the community’s needs.  

We know that many of you will read this letter and have  information from various sources that you feel supports  the choice not to vaccinate yourself or your family. We  urge you to take a moment and consider the impacts of  your decisions on the greater community. These  vaccines are safe and effective.  

We have heard concerns from patients that some  vaccinated people are becoming infected with Covid-19.  Yes, this is true, but the likelihood of contracting the  virus is substantially lower. If you become infected  following vaccination, the disease course is significantly milder. 

You may be very healthy and have a strong immune  system. You may feel you will be safe. We have cared  for and admitted many patients who have had this very  thought. Unfortunately, we are admitting younger and  healthier people with complications from Covid-19. It is  NOT a bad cold. It is NOT a bad flu. It hurts. It keeps  people awake at night because of pain. It causes fluid to  build up in the lungs making breathing difficult. It is  AWFUL even in those not sick enough to require  hospitalization. Yes, some people are lucky and have a  milder case, but is this a risk you really want to take for  you or your parents or your children? We urge you to  consider your circle of friends and family. Do you have  or know children who are too young to be vaccinated?  We are seeing a rise in cases in our pediatric patients.  Do you have elderly relatives who have chronic  diseases? They are more likely to suffer devastating  illness and death. This is not only about you and your  healthy immune system. It is about the greater good of  the community. We cannot keep fighting this fight  without your help.  

We are seeing people resist not just vaccinations, but  the return of mask mandates. We too are tired of masks.  We wear them every day, all day. We cannot defeat this  disease without increasing vaccination numbers, and we  cannot control the spread without masks. Vaccines and  masks work. If you want your children to return to school  in person, please vaccinate. If you want your children 

not to be masked in school, please vaccinate. If you  want to go to the store unmasked, please vaccinate.  

If anything in this letter resonates with you, please go  get vaccinated. The following link lists vaccine clinics in  our community.  


Thank you for consideration of our perspective. We feel  fortunate to be part of such a wonderful community and  look forward to a return to “normalcy.” This return can be  hastened by your participation in vaccinations and  following other public health mandates.


The physicians and PAs of Eugene Emergency  Physicians

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.
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