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Addressing the 96%: Health director again urges vaccinations

Frustrated by the fact that unvaccinated people have driven the recent influx of COVID-19 patients in hospitals around the state, Beaufort County Health Director Jim Madson doubled down on his efforts to encourage local residents to get their shot during a County Commissioners meeting Monday.

Madson tied in a story involving his own health while sharing that message. Madson said he started a prescription within the past year to combat high cholesterol, and that medication helped his cholesterol return to healthy numbers.

“I’m only saying that I weighed the risk of side effects of the cholesterol medicine to the risk of having heart disease or a stroke or something like that,” Madson said. “And I decided that I do want that intervention.

“It’s the same thing with this vaccine. It’s a matter of whether you’d rather have COVID or spread COVID to other people, or would you rather have the vaccine and prevent that from happening.”

Madson said just 4% of the new COVID-19 cases recorded in Beaufort County over the past two months involved vaccinated individuals.

“I know it’s frustrating to the medical community,” Madson said, “because every time they see somebody in the ICU (with COVID), they think of how easy it could have been to prevent that. Maybe not prevent 100% of the, but prevent most of them.

“This is not just a job for me; I care about people in this county, and most of y’all know that about me,” Madson added. “I got my shot to show my confidence in the shot, to show you my confidence in the shot. My children, I got them vaccinated because serious disease is a threat to them. I report the data for the county to try to show you how effective the COVID vaccine is, so I can only hope that these actions can convince the rest of you out there, please go out and get vaccinated.”

Approximately 46% of Beaufort County’s total population, 56% of its adult population and 15.4% of its residents ages 12-17 had been at least partially vaccinated as of Tuesday.

Case counts and hospitalizations are surging around the country as Delta and other COVID-19 variants become more prominent.

Last week, Vidant Health joined several hospital systems in mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all of its employees. That includes all employees at Vidant Beaufort Hospital. According to a release from Vidant, anyone in a leadership position (manager or above), physicians and credentialed providers must complete their vaccine series by Oct. 1. Team members, new hires and contract workers must complete theirs by Dec. 1.

“In addition to other important safety measures like the flu vaccine, the COVID vaccine will become a condition of employment; which means in order to be employed by or work at Vidant, team members must be vaccinated by the deadlines outlined above or have an approved medical or religious exemption,” the release says. “Ongoing requirements for those meeting medical/religious exemptions may include weekly testing and potential reassignment away from working on units with immuno-compromised patients.”