At least 400 US healthcare workers have died of Covid despite vaccine launch
At least one in eight healthcare workers lost in the pandemic died after the vaccine became available, according to analysis Lost on the front line: healthcare workers who died from Covid A healthcare worker checks patients inside an oxygen tent outside the emergency room in Huntington Park, California on December 29, 2020. Photo: Bing Guan / Reuters When healthcare workers in the US started lining up for their first vaccines against the coronavirus on December 14, Esmeralda Campos-Loredo was already fighting for oxygen. The 49-year-old nursing assistant and mother of two had started having trouble breathing only days earlier. When the first of her co-workers was receiving injections, she was shaking in a tent in the parking lot of a Los Angeles hospital because there were no medical beds available. When he gasped for air, he had to wait all day for relief because there was a critical shortage of oxygen tanks. Campos-Laredo died of Covid-19 on December 18, one of at least 400 healthcare workers identified by The Guardian / KHN’s Lost in the front-line investigation who have died since the vaccine became available in mid-December, just about the protection I could have had. saved their lives. “I told him to hold on, because they are launching the vaccine,” said his daughter Joana Campos. “But it was a little late.” In California, which became the center of the national coronavirus surge after Thanksgiving, 40% of all healthcare worker deaths occurred after the vaccine was distributed to medical personnel. Bar chart showing reported deaths of healthcare workers in California. An analysis of The Guardian / KHN’s Lost on the Frontline database indicates that at least one in eight healthcare workers lost in the pandemic died after the vaccine became available. Unlike California, many states do not require a complete report of the deaths of nurses, doctors, first responders, and other medical personnel. The analysis did not include deaths reported by the federal government where the name was not disclosed and numerous recent deaths may be missing that have not yet been detected by The Guardian / KHN. The vaccine is now widely available to healthcare workers across the country, and since mid-January, Covid-19 cases have been on a downward trend in the US Sasha Cuttler, a San Francisco nurse, has been collecting health care data for one of California’s nursing unions. Cuttler was alarmed and disheartened to see the death toll continuing to rise weeks after the vaccine became widely available. “We can prevent this. We just need the means to do it, ”Cuttler said, noting that, almost a year after the pandemic, some hospitals still lack adequate protective equipment and adequate personnel. “We do not want to be heroes and martyrs of health. We want a safe workplace. “Barbara Clayborne, a nurse in Stockton, fell ill the week her colleagues began receiving their first doses of the vaccine. Clayborne, a union activist who had worked at St Joseph’s Medical Center for 22 years, picketed last summer to demand more help for troubled nurses treating Covid-19 patients.Though she worked in what was considered a relatively low-risk postpartum care unit, she advocated for her colleagues in the intensive care unit , many of whom were overwhelmed by the number of patients they were responsible for. “We know what it’s like to work a full 12-hour shift and not be able to drink water, sit or go to the bathroom,” Clayborne told the Stockton Record in August. “It’s been chaos.” In mid-December, Clayborne, who had asthma, was exposed to a patient who had not yet been diagnosed with Covid-19, her daughter Ariel Bryant said. She died on December 8. January. “She was the best mother and grandmother, and she was a great role model for me,” said Bryant, who became a nurse. Bryant works in an intensive care unit in Southern California, as the same kind of nurse his mother fought so hard to protect. If the vaccine had arrived a few days earlier, it could have saved Tennessee Fire Chief Ronald “Ronnie” Spitzer and his department dispatcher Timothy Phillips. Spitzer and his team from the Rocky Top Fire Department were called to a medical emergency on December 11, but were not told until later that the patient had tested positive for Covid-19. Spitzer, 65, and his accompanying firefighter contracted the virus. A few days later, Phillips also fell ill. Spitzer, a 47-year veteran of firefighting, was already hospitalized when his co-workers received their first doses of the vaccine in January, according to Police Chief Jim Shetterly. Spitzer died on January 13 and Phillips, 54, died a few days later. Tennessee does not publish statistics on healthcare worker deaths, but 10 of the 22 Tennessee healthcare worker deaths identified by The Guardian / KHN have occurred since the vaccine was launched in December. Shetterly said his city of 1,800 people had been devastated by the losses. “Everybody knows everybody here. It is tragic when it hits the nation. But when he’s in your city, he really comes home, ”he said. Gerard Brogan, director of nursing practice for National Nurses United, said many hospitals had not done adequate planning to be prepared for recent surges, which expose exhausted healthcare workers to additional risk. “When there are more patients, there is more chaos in hospitals and it is more difficult for workers to be safe,” he said. During the recent surge, “we had nurses go bankrupt due to the influx of patients and the emotional and physical cost to the workers.” Even once all healthcare workers are vaccinated, he said, healthcare administrators should remain vigilant about worker safety. He said preparations for the surge, additional security equipment, contingency personnel plans, and facilities such as negative pressure rooms to prevent the disease from spreading through hospitals should be a regular part of preparing for potential future pandemics. . Rashida Kamal and KHN reporters Shoshana Dubnow and Christina Jewett contributed to this report.