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Doctors launch Covid vaccination promotion campaign

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Frontline doctors: Annie Pinto, left, with Benjamin Lau, Sylvanus Nawab and Kim Foley (Photograph supplied)

Doctors are launching a campaign to promote coronavirus vaccination, it was revealed at the weekend.

The news came as the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association warned that healthcare staff were “exhausted” by the battle against a Covid-19 fourth wave and the health minister announced seven more deaths.

Kim Foley, Benjamin Lau, Sylvanus Nawab and Annie Pinto said on Saturday that there was a broadcast planned and a video to persuade more people to get vaccinated.

Frontline doctors: Annie Pinto, left, with Benjamin Lau, Sylvanus Nawab and Kim Foley (Photograph supplied)

Dr Nawab, a paediatrician and chairman of the Bermuda Health Council, said: “Everyone is exhausted.

“Nursing staff at the hospital in particular are working long hours, exposed to high viral loads from patients and they are still showing up and doing their jobs.

“But it’s very tough on everyone.”

He added that a letter last week from the BMDA that appealed to the public to trust their doctors and get vaccinated, was signed by seven medics and had since been backed by dozens more.

Dr Nawab said that widespread anti-vaccine beliefs meant that doctors “expected” problems well before a consignment of Pfizer shots arrived in Bermuda early this year.

A fresh delivery of more than 2,300 doses of vaccine arrived from Britain last Thursday.

Dr Nawab said personal freedom should be weighed against “the freedom of the majority”.

He compared vaccination to obeying traffic rules or wearing a seatbelt.

Dr Lau, a GP and president of the BMDA, said he had lost four patients to Covid-19 during the 18-month pandemic.

He added: “I could talk about each individual. It’s emotional. It’s draining to think about.

“All four of them were people I knew for more than a decade.

“In some ways, you feel you have let them down by not protecting them.”

Dr Lau said three of the patients were unvaccinated and one had got the jabs, but was elderly and obese.

He added that vaccination opponents had asked why doctors did not work harder to make sure patients stayed healthy in the first place – which was “offensive”.

Dr Lau said: “That’s our job. Of course we do.”

Dr Pinto, an anaesthetist, said some patients felt “imposed upon” when doctors promoted vaccination.

She said: “We are sympathetic. It’s our role to protect our patients in the best way.

“The vaccine is the number one way to avoid the crisis generated by Covid.”

The four doctors agreed the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital was overloaded.

Dr Pinto added: “The vaccine does not mean you will not test positive or can’t have symptoms, and a very small number may get serious illness.

“The numbers do not lie. The hospital is full of unvaccinated patients. It means we can’t take care of other problems and other patients.”

Dr Pinto said more than 95 per cent of the island’s doctors backed the vaccine – and the BMDA was determined to get the message out to the public.

Dr Foley, a critical care and lung specialist, was speaking after she filmed a short clip that appealed to the public to register for the vaccine.

She added: “We’re emotionally drained. We’re all fatigued, all on the edge.”

She said many nurses in the hospital were expatriates away from their families and now “all working overtime”.

Dr Foley told the public: “As a critical care physician, I have a right to live and a right to die. That’s the choice you’re making.

“Because of your choice, you come to the emergency room and tell us to give you medicine to save your life. Do you ask what’s in that medicine?”

Dr Foley said the vaccine drive was “advocacy for everybody”.

She added: “If there are too many patients in the emergency room with Covid, it’s taking away from your grandmother getting treated for something else. The system will collapse.”

Dr Foley said the fight against the virus was “a biological war”.

She added: “The vaccine is a form of protection. You don’t go to the battlefield without a shield or sword.”