By Marie McAden
Still trying to decide whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccine? A Beaufort Memorial Hospital (BMH) critical care specialist has seen for himself just how effective the shot has proven to be.
Dr. Matthew McLaughlin, who has been treating COVID patients in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) since the start of the pandemic, has not had a single vaccinated patient with COVID.
“People who are vaccinated are not ending up in the Beaufort Memorial Hospital ICU with COVID,” he said. “The vaccines have really changed the dynamics of the pandemic.”
It wasn’t so long ago that the majority of the beds in the hospital’s ICU were taken up by COVID patients. While the numbers have dropped significantly in the last three to six months, patients continue to be brought in with severe COVID symptoms, many of them ending up on a ventilator.
None of the critically ill patients recently seen in the ICU had received their shots.
“It’s disheartening,” said McLaughlin, a board-certified specialist in critical care medicine and pulmonary disease. “It makes you think, if they could go back in time and get vaccinated, they could be at home instead of in the ICU.”
Nationally, 44 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated. It’s less in South Carolina where just more than 40 percent of residents have completed vaccination, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
As the number of new reported cases has dropped, so have restrictions. McLaughlin worries it could lead to a surge this summer.
“There’s a sense of complacency,” he said. “But people are still getting sick and ending up in the ICU.”
It’s never been easier to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Unlike the high demand experienced this winter, vaccines are now readily available free of charge with virtually no wait time required. Beaufort Memorial offers vaccination appointments at its Vaccine Clinic in Port Royal at BeaufortMemorial.org/VaxPR or visit VaxLocator.dhec.sc.gov to find other locations to get vaccinated.
While a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus that causes it, the vaccines have proven to be extraordinarily effective in preventing serious illness or death from the disease.
“Locally, I can tell you, people who are vaccinated are not ending up in the ICU,” McLaughlin said. “The vaccines are doing the job we want them to do. We’d like to see more people vaccinated so we’ll see fewer people in the ICU.”