OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Two Kansas City-area doctors who joined Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday for a press conference at Saint Luke’s South Hospital called misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, mask wearing and the pandemic in general a “deadly” problem.
“Misinformation has been and continues to be deadly,” said Dr. Dena Hubbard, a pediatrician specializing in neonatology at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
Dr. Andrew Schlachter, a pulmonary and critical-care specialist who serves as the medical director of the Marion Bloch Neurosciences ICU for Saint Luke’s Health System, said he believes it’s “important” for the general public “to hear the truth” about what is happening in ICU units across the Kansas City region.
“This is real,” Schlachter said. “COVID is not gone and, in fact, it is nearing being far worse than it ever was before in our area. The delta variants spread faster, makes you sicker, affects younger and healthier patients, and kills unvaccinated Americans indiscriminately.”
Hubbard said she understands that it can be confusing for many people. The medical community has had to learn about COVID-19 — a novel, or new and emerging virus — on the fly, which has led to changing information and recommendations.
But Hubbard stressed that the answers won’t be found on Facebook or YouTube.
“Go to your doctor, your physician that you trust, the same doctor that walked you along when you were pregnant,” Hubbard said.
While some people have turned to unfounded conspiracy theories online, Kelly noted that misinformation isn’t confined to social media.
“There are people in positions of leadership who hold influence who have used COVID and politics to divide us,” she said. “I want those who are weaponizing misinformation to know, your actions don’t hurt me.
“Your actions hurt your neighbors with pre-existing conditions, because hospitals are rejecting transfer patients due to staff and bed shortages. Your actions hurt your local businesses that lose revenue, because people are having to stay home to avoid contracting the virus. Your actions are hurting our teachers, who have to risk their safety every day because their students are not wearing masks. And you hurt our health care workers. They are exhausted [and] they are disheartened, but they remain on the frontlines every day to treat increasing numbers of critical, preventable COVID-19 patients.”
While vaccination isn’t 100% effective at preventing COVID-19, it is extremely effective at preventing severe disease and death — the kind doctors, nurses and other health care workers across the Kansas City region, country and world have endured for more than 18 months.
“This could be your sister, your neighbor or your child,” Schlachter said. “None of our therapies are effective when you get this sick, so — again — the best treatment remains prevention. ... Steroids and ventilators are not going to save us but vaccines and your healthy, well-intentioned and well-informed choices might.”
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Hubbard said at this point “there’s no good reason not to get the vaccine” for those who remain hesitant.
“We actually have more safety data than almost any other vaccine, because of the large number of vaccines that have been administered ...,” she said. “The vaccines are safe; they’re safe and effective. And while many people have said, ‘I’m going to wait and see,’ there’s no more time. By the time you know that you need it, it may be too late.”
Kelly declined to single out any Kansas legislators or congressional leaders, but she urged common sense to prevail in an effort to protect more Kansans.
“I don’t want to point fingers directly at anybody,” Kelly said. “Just generically, you understand that there are some who are providing misleading information and have really made a campaign of it. I think it’s wrong, and I would implore them to step up and get on the team, the team to prevent this from getting any worse in the state of Kansas.”