A doctor says he will soon refuse to treat unvaccinated patients in Alabama, where low vaccination rates and the highly transmissible delta variant are overwhelming hospitals.
Dr. Jason Valentine, a physician at Diagnostic and Medical Clinic Infirmary Health in Mobile, recently posted a photo on his Facebook page showing him next to a sign that says, “Effective Oct. 1, 2021, Dr. Valentine will no longer see patients that are not vaccinated against COVID-19.”
NBC News has not verified the authenticity of the post, which is now private. Neither Valentine nor representatives at the medical clinic where he works could be reached for comment.
After sharing the picture on social media, Valentine wrote that three unvaccinated patients asked where they could get a vaccine, according to The Birmingham News.
“If they asked why, I told them COVID is a miserable way to die and I can’t watch them die like that,” Valentine wrote.
Valentine planned on mailing a letter to his patients about his decision. He posted the letter online, the newspaper reported.
“We do not yet have any great treatments for severe disease, but we do have great prevention with vaccines. Unfortunately, many have declined to take the vaccine, and some end up severely ill or dead. I cannot and will not force anyone to take the vaccine, but I also cannot continue to watch my patients suffer and die from an eminently preventable disease,” the letter stated, according to the newspaper. “Therefore, as of October 1st, 2021, I will no longer see patients that have not been vaccinated against COVID-19. If you wish to keep me as your physician, documentation of your vaccination will suffice. If you wish to choose another physician, we will be happy to transfer your records.”
As the delta variant of the coronavirus increases infection rates throughout the country, Alabama has been pummeled with new cases that are burdening hospitals. The state ran out of intensive care beds this week, according to NBC affiliate WSFA of Montgomery.
“We’ve never been here before," said Dr. Don Williamson, Alabama Hospital Association president, the news station reported. "We are in truly now in uncharted territory in terms of our ICU bed capacity.”
Williamson said ICU capacity levels have been reached across the state. Some patients were treated on gurneys in hallways or in emergency rooms, Williams said, WFSA reported.
“There were 1,568 patients today who need ICU beds, and there are only 1,557 designated ICU beds in the state today,” Williamson said. “In the Montgomery area, we have eight more patients who are getting ICU care than we have designated ICU beds here.”
Valentine is not the only physician in Alabama to post on social media about the importance of vaccinations.
In a Facebook post in late July, Dr. Brytney Cobia pleaded with skeptics to get vaccinated because she was tired of seeing young, unvaccinated patients pay the ultimate price.
“I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections. One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine," she wrote. "I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late."
Also last month, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, blamed the unvaccinated for the state’s rise in coronavirus infection rates. Alabama's vaccination rate, which was about 36 percent as of Friday, is among the lowest in the country.
"Folks are supposed to have common sense," she told a reporter in response to a question about what it's going to take for people to get vaccinated.
"But it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”