MEDFORD, Ore. — Hundreds of healthcare professionals have signed onto a brief statement urging members of the southern Oregon community to get the COVID-19 vaccine and trust their counsel. As of Thursday evening, about 445 doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners, and other medical staff had signed onto the letter.
The letter is similar to one circulated earlier this week by healthcare workers in Siskiyou County, though considerably more succinct. It reads:
“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 project was spearheaded by Dr. Ryan Hungerford, a physician with Southern Oregon Internal Medicine at Rogue Valley Physicians. Hungerford told NewsWatch 12 that he expected about 100 doctors to sign on in support when he started circulating it on Tuesday. Instead, it quickly doubled that number, then quadrupled it.
Hungerford said that fellow doctors comprise about 90 percent of the names on his statement of vaccination support, with other medical professionals making up the remaining names.
While he initially had humble prospects for the letter, Hungerford now says that he can hardly think of a local doctor not signed onto the list.
The list was not intended to be a petition, and it was neither a response to other initiatives or a position on the vaccination mandates for healthcare workers. Instead, Hungerford said, he just wants people to make a medical decision with medical information, not bias. In his view, many people seem to be making vaccination decisions without the advice of a medical expert, though they may be patients of himself or his colleagues.
"The present health care crisis in our community continues and even worsens, largely due to low vaccination rates, and local physicians are striving to reach out to our community and make an impassioned plea to roll up the sleeve for a covid vaccination," Hungerford said in a statement. "Our hope is that some who may yet still be on the fence might be persuaded knowing that their doctor(s) have also been vaccinated and are encouraging this."
According to data from the Oregon Health Authority, vaccination rates tend to be quite high among healthcare professionals, broadly tracking level of training and experience. Dentists have a vaccination rate of 95 percent, followed by physical therapists with 89 percent, medical doctors at 88 percent, physician assistants and osteopaths at 84 percent, and nurse practitioners at 80 percent.
By comparison, just over 66 percent of Oregon's total adult population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Jackson County has a vaccination rate of 60 percent, and Josephine County is at 54 percent.