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Florida doctor says she won’t treat unvaccinated patients in person

Syringes filled with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a mobile vaccination site in Miami in May 2021. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
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As Florida’s summer coronavirus surge takes the state into the fall with one of the nation’s highest rates of infections and hospitalizations, a physician in South Miami has told patients that she can no longer see them in person for their regular care if they are unvaccinated.

Linda Marraccini, a primary care doctor specializing in family medicine, sent a letter to her patients this month informing them that they could not be treated in person if they were not vaccinated by Sept. 15, according to WTVJ. She said she could still treat unvaccinated patients via telemedicine if they refused to get inoculated at a time when the highly transmissible delta variant of the novel coronavirus has ravaged the state.

“We will no longer subject our patients and staff to unnecessary risk,” Marraccini wrote to patients, noting that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is now fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “This is a public health emergency — the health of the public takes priority over the rights of any given individual in this situation. It appears that there is a lack of selflessness and concern for the burden on the health and well-being of our society from our encounters.”

Marraccini, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, told WTVJ that the decision was based on science and not politics. She said she does not want to potentially expose immunocompromised patients to the virus or further stress the state’s hospital system.

“I understand that people are free to choose, but to me, it’s a problem when it affects other people,” said Marraccini, who has been practicing since 1982.

Florida is still struggling with infections that have overwhelmed hospitals across the state, reporting more than 46,000 new cases of infection over the holiday weekend, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. While the state appears to be turning the corner, with a seven-day average for new infections that has dropped by 18 percent, Florida is still reporting a daily average of 17,570 coronavirus infections.

The state announced Monday that more than 1,000 covid deaths were reported over the weekend. Nearly 13,800 people are hospitalized for covid in the state, with 3,183 occupying beds in intensive care units — second in the nation behind Texas.

Nearly 54 percent of the state is fully vaccinated, which is now slightly higher than the nation’s vaccination rate.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has opposed vaccine and mask mandates, announced last week that the state will start imposing $5,000 fines Sept. 16 on businesses, schools and government agencies that require proof of vaccination. Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, told The Post that a subsection of the statute exempts those in health care, like Marraccini, from being subjected to a possible fine.

“Although it is a type of discrimination we don’t endorse or agree with, she is not breaking that law,” Pushaw said.

Marraccini’s letter came weeks after Jason Valentine, a physician in Mobile, Ala., informed patients he would not treat anyone who was unvaccinated, saying there were “no conspiracy theories, no excuses” stopping anyone from being vaccinated.

“I told them covid is a miserable way to die and I can’t watch them die like that,” Valentine wrote in a Facebook post.

An Alabama doctor watched patients reject the coronavirus vaccine. Now he’s refusing to treat them.

In her letter to patients, Marraccini highlighted the “overwhelming amount of research on this vaccine in multiple countries by thousands of researchers on millions of people.” If people continue to resist vaccination, “we may never reach herd immunity,” she said.

“We have had people die due to this fear,” she wrote. “Patients with other medical conditions are laying in hallways, while covid patients with preventable admissions are in rooms.”

Marraccini told WTVJ that about 10 to 15 percent of her patients were hesitant to get the vaccine, saying the practice found “almost no one that cannot take one of the vaccines for medical reasons.” The South Miami doctor pointed to the delta variant as a catalyst for the surge of infections in the community, as well as “our prolonged issue dealing with masks, distancing and vaccine hesitancy, not to mention disinformation.”

“There’s been millions of deaths globally, so that’s not something to ignore. People are getting to the point where everybody knows somebody that died from covid,” Marraccini told the news station. “This is a problem that really everyone needs to help out with, and it’s affecting our collective communal health.”

She added to Newsweek, “It’s not fair for people who are unvaccinated to harm other people.”

The physician emphasized to patients that her telemedicine services would still be available for those who remain unvaccinated. She wrote that she would work with patients for a month to help find them another physician, and that exceptions would be made for people unable to get vaccinated because of health reasons.

The letter also touched on monoclonal antibodies, which, Marraccini noted, “while very helpful are not as good as prevention.”

“That means barriers (masks) and the vaccine,” she wrote.

She echoed many in the medical community in telling her patients that hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin — a medicine long used to kill parasites in animals and humans that has gained momentum among unvaccinated people as an unproven covid treatment — were not effective in treating the virus. Even as health departments and the FDA are warning of spikes in ivermectin poisoning and hospitalizations, the deworming medicine has drawn advocates in conservative circles alongside accusations that the government and the drug industry are stifling discussion surrounding the medication.

“It needs to be monitored when used for the appropriate reasons, as it has many drug interactions,” Marraccini wrote. “Again, not for covid-19.”

After noting that nearly all of those who have been hospitalized or died of the virus in recent months were unvaccinated, Marraccini thanked the community for allowing her office to treat patients through the course of the pandemic.

“We have done our best to educate our patients and we plan to continue to provide the safest possible environment to provide continuity care,” she wrote.

Read more:

In Florida, a summer of death and resistance as the coronavirus rampaged

Doctors dismayed by patients who fear coronavirus vaccines but clamor for unproven ivermectin