Eugene Emergency Physicians pen letter urging community to get vaccinated as COVID surges


Patrick Jones


The Eugene Emergency Physicians (EEP), contracted with PeaceHealth, released a letter last week to the local community urging members to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as hospitalizations in Oregon surge. The letter talks about the rarity of breakthrough cases, the decreasing number of hospital beds in Oregon, and the morality of getting the vaccine.


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EEP has 50 emergency medical physicians and physician assistants (PAs) and covers the PeaceHealth RiverBend, University District, and Cottage Grove emergency departments. 

The emergency physicians cite numbers of COVID cases in PeaceHealth Oregon locations. They say of the 1,037 hospitalized COVID patients as of August 18, 96% were not fully vaccinated. Currently, hospitalizations are reaching their worst levels since November. They say it is time to use their voice to promote the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

“Every physician and PA in our group has been voluntarily vaccinated for months and has looked on with sadness and despair as public health has become polarized. We have chosen to speak out in order to lend our voice to the growing cry for vaccinations to protect our community.”

The letter acknowledges the potential of getting COVID even if one is vaccinated. However, they say the chances of hospitalizations and deaths are “exponentially” lower. 

“We have heard concerns from patients that some vaccinated people are becoming infected with COVID-19. Yes, this is true, but the likelihood of contracting the virus is substantially lower. If you become infected following vaccination, the disease course is significantly milder.”

The letter also notes the decrease in hospital beds statewide. Professionals say they may soon be unable to properly and adequately care for patients who need non-COVID emergency assistance. 

“We are rapidly losing the ability to care for all of the community’s needs.”

According to the Oregon Health Authority COVID-19 Data Dashboards, only 47 intensive care unit (ICU) beds are available of the total 657 staffed beds in the state as of Aug. 23. That accounts for around 93% of ICU beds filled.

In the surrounding area of Lane County — including Coos, Curry, and Douglas County — only seven ICU beds are available as of Aug. 23. 

“We urge you to take a moment and consider the impacts of your decisions on the greater community. These vaccines are safe and effective.”

The letter asks those who are unvaccinated if they are willing to risk infecting other vulnerable people within their community. The physicians note pediatric hospitalizations are rising and elderly relatives with chronic diseases are still vulnerable even if they are vaccinated. 

“You may be very healthy and have a strong immune system. You may feel you will be safe. We have cared for and admitted many patients who have had this very thought. Unfortunately, we are admitting younger and healthier people with complications from COVID-19. It is NOT a bad cold. It is NOT a bad flu. It hurts … This is not only about you and your healthy immune system. It is about the greater good of the community.”

As of now, there are 47 pediatric ICU beds available out of a staffed 320 as of Aug. 23. That signifies that 85% of pediatric ICU beds are full statewide. 

The letter provides a link for community members to find vaccination clinics in their area.