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Doctors are pleading people to get COVID-19 vaccine as ICU beds reach capacity

One man's surgery to remove aggressive prostate cancer was canceled because of the lack of beds.

WINCHESTER, Va. — A group of Virginia doctors penned a letter to their community, urging them to get vaccinated, as ICU beds fill up with mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

“Our health care system is overburdened. We have no more intensive care units. We have COVID patients boarding in the emergency room," Dr. Bryan Currie, an anesthesiologist with Valley Health said. "In the number of COVID patients we've had, this is the most we've had during this entire pandemic. And…85% of these are unvaccinated.”

A doctor with UVA Hospital in Richmond said last week that a majority of their ICU beds were filled with COVID patients -- 90% of whom were unvaccinated.

Full intensive care units again mean that many elective surgeries have been canceled -- like Susan Smith's husband's was last week at Winchester Medical Center.

"For us, it's urgent, and it is life-threatening because my husband had a heart attack on May 1, when he was scheduled to have aggressive prostate cancer removed in the middle of May," Smith said. "He was taken off blood thinners to have the surgery, and they canceled the surgery. So he has a very small window of opportunity to be able to have the surgery."

RELATED: 'Never seen anything like this in my 22 years in pediatrics' | Virginia doctor overwhelmed by child COVID cases

Dr. Currie blames rampant misinformation for the continued hesitancy from some to get the shot. He said he and his colleagues have been trying to rethink how they reach the people who are on the fence.

Over the weekend, he joined more than 400 other doctors in the Winchester area in writing a letter to the community, urging them to get vaccinated.

“We don't want people to suffer. We don't want people to die," he said. "And if you don't trust those of us who have committed our lives to medicine and to these advancements, then don't trust us when you need a heart transplant, and don't trust us when you have cancer. And don't just cherry-pick your facts, because it's convenient for you. Because now the health care system is overburdened and overwhelmed. And we need your help to get through this."

Smith and her husband are vaccinated but understand the fears preventing so many of her friends and family from joining them.

"The biggest fear is that no one knows what's going to happen in the future with this vaccine," she said. "The unvaccinated -- the people that I know--they want more information, they want more evidence, and they just want someone to believe."

She charges the medical community with addressing those concerns.

“It's on them to help the community to feel more comfortable getting the vaccine. You attract flies with honey," Smith said. "When there's bickering back and forth. When there's belittling. You're not going to get anywhere.”

She said that there needs to be a more centralized source with just the facts, so people can do their own research on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

Smith does think this joint letter is a positive step forward but said there needs to be more efforts to dispel misinformation.

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