As all my patients, this lady was also very ill.

Coronavirus had taken her lungs out, and her blood pressure dropped to dangerous levels. It was all touch and gone.

She had just a few hours before told me her greatest regret, telling me while she struggled for every breath that she hadn’t been vaccinated.

A person walks past a coronavirus test centre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire this Tuesday

A person walks past a coronavirus test centre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire this Tuesday

She is not alone — that unvaccinated status is what marks out the vast majority of Covid patients in ICUs around the country right now.


I felt sympathy for her. It is terrible to witness the death of a loved one, especially if you’re an intensive care doctor who has been there for many years.

It is even more poignant when you realize the futility of her suffering, such as this woman.

Had she had her jabs — and as a fifty-something she would certainly have been offered two vaccinations and a booster by now — she would very likely be living her life in the company of her loved ones and not fighting for her very survival.

It is because of this that my sympathies for her and others like it are matched with frustration. Her story continues hourly in the critical-care wards all across the country. 

People queue outside a vaccination centre in Edinburgh as the Covid booster vaccination programme is ramped up

People queue outside a vaccination centre in Edinburgh as the Covid booster vaccination programme is ramped up

Michael Bartley was a critical care nurse at King’s College Hospital, London. He stated that ’80-90%’ of Covid patients he managed were not vaccinated.

The South of England Teaching Hospital is home to this statistic.

Nearly all the Covid patients admitted to my intensive care unit were not vaccinated. The majority of my units were occupied by Covid patients during the worst of the pandemic.

They require round-the-clock care at enormous public expense — every critical-care bed costs about £1,500 per day to run — while putting immense pressure on the NHS in terms of cancelled surgeries and growing waiting lists.

The impact of the backlog in NHS treatment — a record waiting list of 5.7 million and counting — has yet to play out fully.

However, I am certain that this will be proven to have caused tens to thousands of deaths unnecessary and prolonged, severe illness.

Almost two years into the pandemic, we urgently need to tackle this — and to do that we need our critical-care beds for patients who are there unavoidably.

Vaccinations are known to have reduced the risk of serious illnesses and even death caused by coronavirus.

Yet too many people dismiss vaccination as an intervention they can do without — or they believe the lies and malicious misinformation being peddled by anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theories on social media.

Their delusional followers are putting their lives at risk and holding the country hostage with threats of additional restrictions and New Year lockdowns with all the destruction that will bring to businesses and people.

My hospital was, as many others, a war zone at the beginning of the pandemic.

We had to adjust everything, from the post-surgery recovery rooms to operating theatres, in a frenetic fashion for weeks.

We failed to achieve the 15 percent standard, and mortality rates rose by about a quarter.

It was a constant place I went to bed because I didn’t have the time or energy to get home. I will always remember that moment when I woke up from my sleepless nights to find the exhausted faces of nurses wearing PPE on their faces as they emerged from their night shifts.

They reminded me of Spitfire pilots returning from battle in World War II — and, certainly, they were engaged in a daily life-or-death struggle.

Thank God, a lot has happened since then. There are far more effective treatments available and much better knowledge.

Even though government scientists have made grim predictions, there has been no increase in hospital admissions despite the fact that people are now testing positive for Covid after the Omicron variant.

They have been flat or at least holding steady since July.

Some of my unvaccinated patients have pre-existing medical conditions, while others don’t. Many of them are in their 30s to 40s.


Some of them will die — and I would not wish their final moments on anyone. Covid deaths are horrible.

Anybody who is born before their time leaves behind a tragedy that will be felt by their loved ones.

Unvaccinated people are more likely to be affected by this tragedy.

Many of the people who speak can’t wait to tell others about their disappointment at being vaccinated.

One of my colleagues said this to me: “I wish I could go back in time, doctor,”

A member of the medical staff at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast, which has been transformed into a vaccination centre

An employee of the health staff at Belfast’s Titanic Exhibition Centre. It has now been converted into a vaccine centre.

I was asked by the family to give the vaccine in another instance. The family didn’t realize it was too late.

I will be honest: the Hippocratic Oath obligates me to make every effort to provide care for all patients who are not vaccinated. However, it can be difficult to ignore the anger at my fellow colleagues’ irresponsibility.

Doctors cannot decide who they will treat. However, a Covid patient who is unvaccinated may be sleeping on a Covid bed. This could mean that he or she could have to receive life-saving medical treatment.

While unvaccinated people may be ignorant of the dangers, some are more selfish than others.


Although every adult in free societies has the right to refuse medical treatment if necessary, I believe that people who choose to decline vaccinations should face serious consequences.

This is why I strongly support vaccination passports, even though my instinctive liberal tendencies.

They are what’s known in government as a ‘nudge’ — a minor inconvenience — and I am convinced they would lead to about 80 per cent of supposedly fervent anti-vaxxers queuing for their jabs.

Experiment has shown that if you put a little obstacle in someone’s way, they will often lose their rational beliefs.

Of course there will be die-hard refuseniks who hold on to absurd conspiracy theories and misguided beliefs about vaccination as a civil rights issue.

Some NHS staff, for example, are staunchly refusing to have a Covid jab — but you never hear them complaining about the other mandatory vaccinations in the NHS, such as Hepatitis B.

Such beliefs are not accepted by those on the frontline. The lady that I mentioned at beginning of article unfortunately died afterward.

Hers was another tragic and avoidable loss — and her dying words should shame both those who reject the vaccines and the fools who perpetrate lies about their benefits. 

This writer is an Intensive Care Specialist at a South of England hospital.