Physicians urge Pullman community to get vaccinated

Testing center opened at 690 Bishop Blvd.; hospitals, clinics are overwhelmed with patients



The emergency department at Pullman Regional Hospital will never turn away a patient who needs care, said Dr. Peter Mikkelsen, PRH medical director of emergency services.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen news editor

Local physicians announced the opening of a Pullman COVID-19 testing center and addressed the state of COVID-19 during a virtual press conference Tuesday morning. 

The testing center, located at 690 Bishop Blvd., opened Wednesday and will provide consistent testing for members of the community, said Dr. Peter Mikkelsen, Pullman Regional Hospital medical director of emergency services. 

Clinics were overwhelmed with the volume of tests needed, he said.

“Testing is a part of managing the virus,” Mikkelsen said. “It helps people get back to doing the things they love to do and things we couldn’t do for a long time.”

Patients wanting a test will need to obtain a doctor’s order before going to the center. Results should be available to patients within 24 hours, he said.

PRH is full of patients, Mikkelsen said. Physicians sometimes spend hours calling other hospitals to find places to transfer patients who need care.

PRH will not turn any patients away from the emergency department, he said. It will occasionally send patients to other hospitals if they have services the patient needs. 

Palouse Medical put a cap on the number of patients providers see each day because so many people are coming into the clinic, said Dr. Stephanie Fosback, Palouse Medical general internist. 

About 95 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients at PRH are unvaccinated, Mikkelsen said.

Pullman residents should all consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine, Mikkelsen said.

“We’re not saying you should get vaccinated even if you don’t want to. What we are saying is we should help you understand vaccination, and then you should make the right decision for you personally,” said Dr. Keith Gautreaux, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories health clinic medical director.

All of the available COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalizations, Gautreaux said. Hospitals are full of patients and understaffed for the demand, which could change if more people were vaccinated.

Gautreaux said he had to send a patient — who did not have COVID-19 — to an ICU in Montana because the medical facilities in Eastern Washington are so overwhelmed.

Children under 12 cannot receive the vaccine yet. This means parents, including healthcare workers, may have to stay home if their children are exposed to the virus. Having more vaccinated people will protect children and prevent this, he said.

Getting vaccinated also protects people who are severely immunocompromised or immunosuppressed, said Dr. Sunday Henry, Cougar Health Services interim director of medical services. 

Henry said she is vaccinated to protect a close friend with cancer. Even though her friend has been vaccinated three times, it is important for the people around her to be vaccinated because her immune system could be easily overwhelmed if she were exposed to COVID-19.

“I’m very afraid that one of [her friends] might bring Delta to her, and it would kill her,” Henry said. “The vaccine is safe — we know it works — and it will save her life.”

Some families have deemed themselves “low-risk” for COVID-19 infection, Palouse Pediatrics Pediatrician Dr. Katie Hryniewicz said. However, there is no way to know the medical status of the people around you.

There is no way to tell which child just had a liver transplant and is immunocompromised or which parent just got diagnosed with cancer, Hryniewicz said.

“Every single one of us has a person, like my very dear friend, around us that we need to protect,” Henry said.

Some patients are hesitant to receive the vaccine because they hear about vaccinated people getting sick, Henry said. 

“No, it’s not perfect. No vaccine is,” she said. “But, boy, is it really really good.”

Henry said physicians would not recommend anything to patients that is not safe. Physicians have denounced other purported COVID-19 treatments, such as ivermectin, because they are not safe. 

“We didn’t go to medical school to be controlled by the government or by anybody else,” Henry said. “We went to medical school to take care of our patients in the very best way we could, which is by being honest with them.”

Most patients who are hesitant about the vaccine fear it has long-term side effects, Fosback said.

“I don’t think any vaccine that I know of has long-term effects, outside of immunity, which is a good effect,” she said.