BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) – A Lowcountry doctor who has been on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 is talking about his experience treating people with the virus and what you can do to stay healthy.
Dr. Matt McLaughlin, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, says fewer serious patients are coming through the doors of the intensive care unit than last year, which is good news.
“Intermittently, we were getting the ICU which was half full with patients with COVID-19,” said Dr. McLaughlin. “Now, since this vaccine, I would say that’s not the case.”
He has seen a trend during the last few months. Almost all of the ones that need life-saving help had one thing in common.
“What we are seeing locally is patients that have been vaccinated, we are not seeing them critically ill with COVID-19,” said McLaughlin.
But those who do need critical care and end up on a ventilator haven’t gotten their shots.
“It’s disheartening,” said McLaughlin. “I don’t say I would ever have frustration really towards my patients, you want to do the best for you, and you just wish that things had been different.”
“What if we could go back in time and they got that vaccine?” he added. “Maybe instead of being in the intensive care unit, they’d be home.”
McLaughlin says part of the problem of vaccine hesitancy can be blamed on social media. Questions about the effectiveness and side effects circulate online along with unfounded theories on the vaccines, like how they magnetize you.
“What it may take, at times, is us sitting down and having a long talk,” explained McLaughlin. “Patients’ families come into the ICU and are surprised, sometimes saying, ‘I didn’t think people got this sick from this virus.'”
McLaughlin says the fact that there have been improvements in the COVID fight might have created a sense of complacency.
“I am not going to run and get the vaccine. I will wait for the next big thing,” he said.
“The likelihood (of a cure) coming up very quickly is very low,” McLaughlin continued. “The history of our treatments for viruses — generally we aren’t that effective in our treatments of viruses. It takes decades to do that.
“Flu, we have a couple of medicines that decrease symptoms but are not a cure for the flu. And that’s something people have spent a lot of time researching.”
McLaughlin points to the 90% nationwide efficacy of the vaccine as a reason for hope.
“I think vaccinations will be the biggest part of trying to get this under control and make this something that is a thing of the past, hopefully.”
He pointed out that vaccine clinics are no longer overrun. There usually isn’t even a line.
Now it is our job, he believes, to step up to help and keep people out of the hospital.
“I don’t think there will ever be an end to the need for an ICU. There will always be patients,” McLaughlin details. “(But) I would much rather be wondering where all my patients are than see another patient on the ventilator for 2-3-4 weeks from this virus or dying from this virus.”
If you would like to get vaccinated, Beaufort Memorial Hospital is offering vaccines at their Port Royal location at 1680 Ribaut Road Tuesdays through Thursdays from 8 am to 5 p.m., by appointment only. Children over 12 can get vaccinated if they are with a parent or legal guardian.
Visit bmhsc.org for more information on scheduling an appointment.