COVID vaccine posts attract attention

T-R FILE PHOTO — Medical facilities in Marshalltown are stretched thin as people continue to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine. Hospital and city officials are urging people to get vaccinated.

Some Marshalltown residents have made opinions of COVID-19 vaccines known online and others have noticed.

Dr. Lance Van Gundy went viral on Sept. 2 after posting a live Facebook feed about how people need to get vaccinated because there are no more rooms in Iowa hospitals.

Mayor Joel Greer asked on his private Facebook page on Wednesday whether or not people who have not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine deserve to receive medical treatment.

“If the unvaccinated don’t trust science and doctors, do they deserve medical care when they get covid, especially when others needing emergency care are refused because ERs are full and ventilators are unavailable?” he wrote.

Greer said he wrote the post because of his concern over the large number of people who are not getting vaccinated. However, he stressed he does not believe people should be denied medical treatment. When some people, though, get sent to the hospital with injuries and there is no room because beds are filled with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, Greer asked if that is fair.

Van Gundy

“Are the people who are protecting themselves more deserving of treatment?” he asked.

While it is a worthy question, UnityPoint – Hospital physician Lance VanGundy said it is the wrong one.

“The questions we should be asking are how can we beat this virus and how should we move forward?” he said. “I understand the anger and the fear behind the question, but putting the energy into the other questions is the only way we are going to win.”

VanGundy estimated 25 percent of hospital beds are filled with COVID-19 patients. Of those, he said 88 percent are unvaccinated, and they require extended care. Patients are normally released after a couple days, depending on the condition, from the hospital, but he said intubated COVID-19 patients can take up a bed for 14 days.

VanGundy’s Facebook post in which he lists different patients who have been delayed beds as a result of COVID patients has caused him to be interviewed by CNN, NBC, Newsweek and BBC. While he appreciates the attention, his intention is to get people vaccinated.


The doctor has had to hold patients with heart attacks, strokes and even meningitis, which is an infection in the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord. VanGundy stressed the meningitis case was not the contagious viral form.

However, it took VanGundy a long time to locate an intensive care unit (ICU) bed to place the patient in. Normally, he said the patient would have gone to ICU and then a neurosurgical team. VanGundy finally located a hospital in Cedar Rapids which had room.

“It took me four to five hours of working the phone and he did not have a place to go,” he said.

The medical system in Iowa is not at a point where people will be denied care based on severity. However, VanGundy said that could happen.

“We are getting to a place where we will have to hold resources,” he said.

VanGundy said that has been done in places such as Louisiana where there is no power following Hurricane Ida, and New York where the system was overwhelmed. He said the system in Iowa could very well get overwhelmed, as well – especially since medical facilities are dealing with a severe nursing shortage.

“There was a national nursing shortage before COVID and then it got worse. A lot of them retired. I think COVID scared them,” VanGundy said. “It was a double whammy.”

Both the Marshalltown mayor and the emergency room doctor urged people to get vaccinated.

“We are all in this together,” VanGundy said. “If you don’t get vaccinated, you affect your neighbor, my dad and it directly contributes to the lack of resources.”


Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.


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