By Aya Elamroussi, CNN
The Covid-19 vaccine has become so polarizing that some people in Missouri are getting inoculated in secret for fear of backlash from their friends and family who oppose vaccination, a doctor told CNN on Wednesday.
“They’ve had some experience that’s sort of changed their mind from the viewpoint of those in their family, those in their friendship circles or their work circles. And they came to their own decision that they wanted to get a vaccine,” said Dr. Priscilla Frase, a hospitalist and chief medical information officer at Ozarks Healthcare in West Plains, Missouri.
“They did their own research on it, and they talked to people and made the decisions themselves,” Frase told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “But even though they were able to make that decision themselves, they didn’t want to have to deal with the peer pressure or the outbursts from other people about them … ‘giving in to everything.'”
In a hospital produced video, Frase said one pharmacist at her hospital told her “they’ve had several people come in to get vaccinated who have tried to sort of disguise their appearance and even went so far as to say, ‘please, please, please don’t let anybody know that I got this vaccine.'”
Frase told CNN if a patient asks for privacy to get vaccinated, the hospital tries to accommodate the request — whether at the drive-thru window or at their cars.
“Anything we can do to get people in a place that they’re comfortable receiving the vaccine,” Frase said. “It’s not a large number, but every single person that we can reach who wants to get vaccinated and we can provide that for them, that’s a win. And we take every win that we can get.”
The doctor’s assertion reflects the dramatic polarization of the Covid-19 vaccines and the extent to which vaccine skepticism has hardened into vaccine refusal.
Studies of the three authorized vaccines have shown that they are not 100% effective but nevertheless provide strong protection against infection and severe illness. The vast majority of people hospitalized and dying of Covid-19 are unvaccinated, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.
Still, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released earlier this month found that most people who’d made firm decisions one way or the other about their vaccination plans back in January hadn’t budged since. Of those who were unvaccinated at the start of the year, only about 8% had changed their minds, the poll found.
Missouri has 41% of its population fully vaccinated against Covid-19, which ranks 13th-lowest among all US states, according to the CDC. The state has had some of the highest rates of new cases per capita in recent weeks as the coronavirus has preyed upon the unvaccinated.
Unvaccinated patients are getting sicker quicker
Frase said her hospital had 33 patients admitted with Covid-19 as of Wednesday and she’s expecting that number to rise.
“The patients that are coming in are generally younger than what we saw before. It’s more people requiring a lot more oxygen, a lot quicker,” Frase said.
“The majority of people we’ve admitted have not been vaccinated,” she added.
“The biggest thing that I think has been shocking for us is, back in the fall, in the winter, it took us four months to get to our peak admitted patients, which is around 22. It’s taken us 30 days to exceed that and be up to 33 today.” Frase said.
And it’s not just Frase’s hospital that is dealing with an influx of patients in Missouri.
The CoxHealth health system said it’s expanding morgue capacity in due to an increase in Covid-19 related deaths.
“We’ve actually brought in a portable piece of technology that allows bodies to be cooled and placed outside the morgue. We have had to expand that because the mortality has gone up so much lately,” CoxHealth President and CEO Steve Edwards said during a news briefing in Springfield-Greene County Tuesday.
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CNN’s Raja Razek, Jennifer Feldman and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.