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‘We feel like we have lost our voice’

FILE - This Saturday, March 6, 2021, file photo, shows vials of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital pharmacy.
Medical professionals make plea for vaccination

ASHLAND — As Southern Oregon hospitals overflow with COVID-19 patients, a growing number of medical professionals have added their name to a message encouraging the public to become vaccinated against the virus.

As of Thursday afternoon, nearly 450 physicians, surgeons, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, specialists and dentists had agreed to add their names in support of the message, according to Dr. Ryan Hungerford, endocrinologist with Southern Oregon Internal Medicine.

The message states: “You trust us to care for you. You trust us to care for your parents and your children. Please trust us when we encourage you to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It is safe, effective, and may save your life or the life of someone you love. We’ve been vaccinated, and hope you will, too.”

The first 100 responses of support came within “a matter of hours” after contacting peer networks via text, email and phone Aug. 31, Hungerford said. Another 100 signed on overnight.

At midday Thursday, the additions of an entire practice and large groups from Asante and Providence bumped the list up by 110 names. Hungerford said he has not yet received any responses denouncing the message.

Hungerford’s office sought to identify an effective method to reach the community amid division over vaccines, and generated the idea for an informal message providers could opt to support and share around.

“We feel like we have lost our voice and have not been able to connect with patients,” Hungerford said. “We’re grasping.”

As an outpatient physician, Hungerford sees 15 to 20 patients per day. Upon arrival at the clinic, each patient undergoes assessment for COVID-19 risk and is asked whether they have been vaccinated. For those who haven’t, a conversation ensues.

On a one-on-one basis, conversations typically begin with an explanation of the pros and cons of what the patient is seeking, he said. If a patient asks to gargle Clorox, take Ivermectin or high doses of supplements that have not been proven effective against COVID-19, or believe their blood type protects them from infection, Hungerford said replying to those falsehoods and offering space for questions are actions intended to strengthen the patient’s ability to make informed choices for their own health.

“Every medical decision should come on the part of the patient after feeling like they’ve had good information,” he said.

Often, he said, individuals made a choice regarding vaccination based on a friend’s recommendation or information sourced from an unverifiable website, without talking to their health care provider.

Though Ivermectin is not authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent or treat COVID-19, some patients still seek out the antiparasitic because of what they have heard, Hungerford said.

Reports of adverse effects associated with Ivermectin use, including use of veterinary products not intended for human consumption, increased this year over pre-pandemic levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As individuals weigh the pros and cons for themselves, Hungerford asked for the same "benefit of the doubt“ regarding vaccines as when patients receive a new prescription from their physician or undergo surgery.

“We’re not asking that patients trust us blindly, we just want to have a voice in this whole discussion,” he said, adding that pervasive misinformation and negativity surrounding the vaccine have “drowned out” providers’ opinions. “We understand that people will still decline. … We encourage patients and people in the community to at least give their physician or their health care provider an opportunity to make a case for vaccination.”

In general, physicians view vaccination as one of the simplest medical decisions to make, based on high degrees of safety and affordability, he said. Some over-the-counter medications have rare risks that are still more common than those associated with approved COVID-19 vaccines, he said.

Hungerford hopes with the message of support gaining traction, unvaccinated people may change course, seeing people they know and trust lined up in support of the vaccine.

“This communication is made out of sincere love for [our patients] and a desire to protect their lives and well-being,” Hungerford said. “We don't want to ‘call out’ those who refuse vaccines, nor make anybody feel bad for not getting vaccinated. That is not the point. This is a heartfelt and impassioned plea for their safety.”

Jackson County reported 202 new cases of COVID-19 and four more deaths Wednesday. According to the Oregon Health Authority, 84.1% of cases reported last week occurred in nonvaccinated people.

Local medical professionals who support the message thus far include:

Dr. Miran Abdulhadi, Dr. Michael Absalon, Dr. Alexander Adams, Dr. Justin Adams, Dr. Peter Adesman, Dr. Shane Ahlstrom, Dr. Akram Mudassir, Dr. Amanda Alford, Dr. Chase Altom, Dr. Joy Anderson, Stacey Andrews, Dr. Anna Antonopulos, Dr. Rishi Arora, Dr. Pamela Ator, Dr. Adam Aufderheide, Dr. Kristopher Azevedo, Dr. Kathryn Bacher, Dr. Annavi Baghel, Dr. Shivashanker Balasingham, Dr. Mack Bandler, Clint Banning, Dr. Elizabeth Banowetz, Mary Barnum, Dr. Loren Barrus, Consuelo Bartyzal, Dr. Travis Behrend, Dr. Laurel Bell, Dr. Matt Bengard, Dr. Ted Bennion, Dr. Robert Bents, Dr. Lora Bergert, Dr. Leah Bernard, Dr. Alan Binette, Dr. Walter Blackburn, Dr. Robert Blanche, Dr. Michael Blumhardt, Dr. Eileen Bobek, Dr. Mirek Bobek, Dr. Garrett Bodine, Dr. Erica Bohan, Dr. Brian Bonner, Dr. Gemma Bornick, Dr. Meghan Bost, Dr. Keyon Botsford, Dr. Donna Bradshaw, Dr. Erin Brender, Lori Braughton, Dr. Ben Brooksby, Dr. Jon Brower, Nate Brown, Dr. Caroline Brown, Dr. Ken Buccino, James Burneson, Dr. Steve Burt, Dr. Adam Cabalo, Dr. Pedro Campos, Dr. David Candelaria, Dr. Peter Canning, Dr. Steve Cannon, Dr. Charles Carmeci, Dr. Lauralyn Carter, Dr. Juan Castillo, Dr. James Catt, Jill Celestskye, Dr. Fernando Cendejas, Dr. Shireen Chamberland, Dr. David Chambers, Dr. Marcelin Charles, Dr. Sylvia Chatroux, Dr. Rosemary Chiedozi, Dr. Jeff Childreth, Dr. Andrei Chirpac, Nathan Chitwood, Dr. Miriam Choate, Dr. Zia Choudhury, Dr. Meaghan Cirlincione, Dr. Jonathan Claassen, Dr. Bryan Clark, Sheri Clark, Dr. Joseph Clarke, Dr. Katherine Clarke, Dr. Todd Clevenger, Samantha Coggins, Dr. Ryan Colley, Dea Collins, Dr. Greg Conway, Mariana Cooper, Reeger Cortell, Dr. Joshua Cott, Dr. Daniel Cowley, Dr. Nicole Cowley, Chris Crum, Dr. Brandt Cullen, Leann Curtis, Dr. Sharlene D’Souza, Angela Dailing, Dr. Aaron Dam, Dr. Kent Dauterman, Dr. Chris David, Dr. Michael Davis, Dr. Lindy Deatherage, Dr. Patrick Denard, Dr. Derek De Vry, Dr. Rocio Diaz, Dr. Jenna Diggs, Rachel Dunn, Dr. Laurie Dutkiewicz, Dr. Radek Dutkiewicz, Dr. Ashish Dwary, Dr. Timo Dygert, Dr. Mark Eaton, Dr. Emmanuel Edson, Kiara Elkin, Dr. Lacey Eschalier, Stephanie Estes, Dr. Thomas Evans, Dr. James Faraoni, Dr. Bill Faught, Dr. Colin Fee, Dr. John Ferrin, Dr. Daniel Fiddler, Dr. Jake Flury, Dr. Nat Fondell, Dr. Christina Ford, Tara Frazier-Rice, Dr. Joey Freedman, Dr. Jonathan Freeman, Patrice Frires, Dr. Megan Frost, Dr. Nathan Funk, Dr. Ashley Gabrielson, Dr. John Gallen, Dr. Jonathan Gell, Dr. Gordon Genskow, Dr. Laurel Geraghty, Dr. Somnath Ghosh, Dr. James Giesen, Dr. Meghan Gilroy, Dr. Christina Godwin, Dr. David Goforth, Dr. Ben Grable, Dr. Molly Gramley, Dr. Collin Grant, Dr. Peter Grant, Dr. Jamie Grebosky, Dr. Mark Greenberg, Dr. Brian Gross, Dr. Paul Gunn, Dr. Apoorva Gupta, Dr. Renu Gupta, Dr. Sue Hagar, Dr. Nancy Hagloch, Dr. Jennifer Hall, Dr. Brian Hall, Dr. Ian Hallows, Dr. Thomas Hammond, Dr. Judy Hardage, Dr. Linda Harris, Dr. Jennifer Hartsock, Besma Hasan, Dr. William Haynal, Dr. Doug Hecox, Dr. Kerri Hecox, Esther Hehn, Dr. Sean Hehn, Dr. Ed Helman, Dr. Jennifer Henderson, Dr. Steven Hersch, Dr. Jayme Hiratzka, Dr. Elizabeth Hirni, Dr. Samuel Hirtle, Lauri Hoagland, Dr. Paul Hoffman, Dr. Heather Holdermann, Dr. Jim Holdermann, Dr. Danielle Holtz, Dr. Jaekyoung Hong, Dr. Scott Hopkins, Dr. Mary Hough, Dr. Matt Hough, Dr. Leon Hsu, Dr. Stephen Hubbard, Dr. Darren Huddleston, Dr. Brandan Hull, Dr. Ryan Hungerford, Dr. William Husum, Dr. Mark Huth, Dr. John Hyatt, Dr. Ryan Israelsen, Dr. Kris Jacobson, Dr. Ahsan Jaffar, Dr. Minal Jaju, Amy James, Dr. Eric Jensen, Jared Johnson, Dr. Tim Johnston, Dr. Paul Jorizzo, Dr. James Juarez, Dr. Corey Kahn, Dr. Dan Kahn, Dr. Kevin Kelleher, Dr. Ed Kerwin, Christopher Key, Dr. Hidong Kim, Darcy Kleiman, Dr. Emre Koca, MD, Dr. Susan Kohler, Cindy Konecne, Karen Kozleski, Dr. Andy Kranenburg, Kevin Kruenegel, Dr. Jason Kuhl, Dr. Karin Kuhl, Dr. Ki Kurtz, Kim Larson, Denise Ledbetter, Dr. Jonathan Lee, Rebecca Leggett, Dr. Craig Lemley, David Levin, Dr. Drew Lewis, Dr. Marta Lewis, Dr. Dennis Linden, Dr. Valerie Ljungkvist, Dr. Eric Loeliger, Dr. James Loos, Dr. Allison Loudermilk, Dr. Ashley Luck, Dr. Ben Luck, Dr. Liam Macleod, Monica Mais, Amanda Maitland, Dr. Tom Margulies, Aaron Martin, Christina Martin, Dr. David Martin, Dr. Sara Matar, Molly Matthews, Dr. Dan McAllister, Dr. James McAnally, Dr. Mona Mcardle, Dr. Mike McCaskill, Nicole McClelland, Dr. Lorraine McDonald, Mariah McGaffey, Dr. Ted McGill, Dr. Robert McLoughlin, Douglas McMahon, Dr. Travis McNeal, Dr. Jeri Mendelson, Dr. Yasir Metwally, Dr. Kendall Michels, Dr. Mark Miller, Dr. Lee Milligan, Dr. Michael Mills, Dr. Nicholas Mills, Dr. Ramesh Mishra, Dr. Anuj Mittal, Dr. Diya Mohammad, Carolina Mona-Keene, Dr. Mark Moran, Dr. Brian Morrison, Daxson Motis, Dr. Adam Mougey, Dr. Rebecca Mueller, Amy Munro, Dr. Lee Murdoch, Dr. Mary Murdoch, Dr. Chelsea Murphy, Dr. Chris Murphy, Dr. Bruce Murray, Dr. Shravani Nalla, Dr. Doug Naverson, Erin Nelli, Scott Nelson, Julie Newmann-Lucero, Dr. Albert Newton, Dr. Bernard Nicholas, Killian Norton, Dr. Matthew Nugent, Dr. Nancy O’Neal, Dr. Baha Obaidat, Neal Oberg, Nancy Obispo, Dr. Stefanie Ogawa, Heidi Ogletree, Dr. Matt Oliva, Anna Olsen, Dr. Neil Olsen, Dr. Phillip Olshausen, Dr. Lee Olson, Kendall Olson-Cassidy, Dr. John Ordal, Dr. Rudolf Oreskovich, Lucy Ortega, Dr. Jamie Osborn, Chad Padovich, Dr. William Palm, Dr. Kevin Parks, Dr. Joe Pastrano, Dr. Keval Patel, Dr. Bruce Patterson, Dr. Chris Patton, Dr. Sabre Patton-Fee, Dr. Garrett Peard, Dr. Eric Pena, Dr. Brad Personius, Dr. Ashley Peterson, Dr. Patrick Phelan, Dr. Cameron Phillips, Dr. Julie Phillips, Dr. Jared Plumb, Dr. Ellen Plummer, Dr. Mitchell Plummer, Dr. Brett Poisson, Greg Price, Dr. Bryce Pullian, Dr. Ruth Rabinovitch, Dr. Manoj Rai, Dr. Marcus Rampton, Rebecca Rampton, Dr. Nishant Ranawat, Dr. Dean Raniele, Dr. Hilary Redden, Dr. Jay Reeck, Dr. Jeff Rees, Dr. Michelle Reina, Dr. Eric Ring, Mujahid Rizvi, Dr. Calie Roa, Donald Robertson, Dr. Jose Rodriguez-Moreno, Dr. Jonathan Romero, Dr. Carissa Ross, Jeremy Ross, Dr. Nicole Roth, Dr. Michele Rushton, Dr. Tina Rutar, Dr. Eli Sager, Dr. John Sager, Dr. Temur Said, Dr. Ben Salgado, Dr. Alexandra Sander, Loretta Sandoval, Dr. Kenneth Sanford, Dr. Karen Sauer, Dr. Alison Savage, Dr. Joe Savino, Sharon Scelza, Patty Schein, Leah Schindler, Erin Schorran, Dr. Paul Schroeder, George Schultz, Dr. Kirsten Schutte, Dr. Carl Seger, Dr. Hilary Seger, Whitney Serafini, Dr. Pratibha Seshadri, Douglas Shields, Forest Shira, Dr. Nicole Shirvani, Dr. Alok Shrestha, Dr. Barb Sibley, Dr. Jennifer Sigrid-Barklund, Dr. Brian Skene, Dr. Matt Smelley, Krista Smith, Bobbie Smith-Ede, Dr. Bill Southworth, Justin Spaulding, Dr. Roma Spring, Dr. Roma Sprung, Dr. Beth Steele, Chrisel Steffen, Dr. Christel Steffen, Dr. Emily Steinbis, Dr. Jill Steinsiek, Dr. Darcie Sternenberg, Dr. Paul Sternengerg, Dr. Tamara Stewart, Dr. David Street, Kathryn Stringer, Mary Strizzi, James Stubenrauch, Dr. Adrian Sue, Dr. Nandita Suresh, Jaymey Sweeney, Dr. Christopher Sykes, Sita Taibi, Amanda Taylor, Dr. Sandra Taylor, Anne Teichman, Dani Thomas, Dr. Matt Thompson, Dr. David Thornberry, Dr. Mirela Titianu, Dr. David Trask, Dr. David Traul, Dr. Sean Traynor, Dr. Thomas Treger, Dr. Donna Tribelhorn, Dr. Dwight Tribelhorn, David Tullar, Dr. Erin Turner, Dr. Rick Urbanski, Dr. Tim Uschold, Dr. Jim Van Horne, Dr. Bruce Van Zee, Don Walker, Dr. John Walker, Dr. Sara Walz, Dr. John Ward, Dr. Kathy Wayman, Dr. Eric Webb, Dr. Erich Weber, Dr. John Wei, Alena Weinberg, Dr. Alicia Welder, Dr. Jeff Welder, Dr. John Welling, Dr. Steven Wells, Dr. Lindsay Wenger, Dr. Daniel Wieking, Dr. Carol Wilder, Dr. Leonard Wilk, Dr. David Wilkins, Dr. Davis Wilkins, Dr. Diane Williams, Mark Williams, Dr. Casey Wilson, Dr. Courtney Wilson, Dr. Timothy Wilson, Dr. Todd Winter, Dr. Gregory Winters, Dr. Hannah Wolsiefer, Dr. Ron Worland, Brianna Wright, Dr. Suzanne Wurstle, Dr. Salma Yahya, Dr. Andrew Young and Dr. Kiley Ziegler.