Facebook / Dr. Jason Valentine / IC Sailor

An Alabama doctor will stop seeing patients who refuse to get the vaccine

The number of positive coronavirus cases is growing at a terrifying rate across the U.S., but nowhere more so than the South. The top 10 states with the most new COVID cases are all in the South, and it’s no coincidence that vaccination rates are lowest in these states. As officials debate dryly over mask mandates, some frontline healthcare workers are taking matters into their own hands. This Alabama doctor is reportedly refusing to continue treating unvaccinated people at his practice.

Jason Valentine, a physician at Diagnostic and Medical Clinic Infirmary Health in Mobile, announced earlier in the week on his Facebook page that as of October 1st, he would only be treating vaccinated patients, the Washington Post reported. The announcement showed a photo of Valentine pointing to a sign that read, “Dr. Valentine will no longer see patients that are not vaccinated against covid-19,” according to the Washington Post. Valentine’s post was initially public, but has since been made private.

“We do not yet have any great treatments for severe disease, but we do have great prevention with vaccines,” Valentine reportedly wrote in a letter to his patients on Facebook. “Unfortunately, many have declined to take the vaccine, and some end up severely ill or dead. I cannot and will not force anyone to take the vaccine, but I also cannot continue to watch my patients suffer and die from an eminently preventable disease.”

Unsurprisingly, Valentine has been hailed as a hero by some and vilified as a bully by others. People who have never even seen the doctor are posting Yelp reviews based on whether they agree with him or not. “This doctor is right,” wrote a Yelp reviewer from San Francisco. “No vaccine, find another doctor.” Other reviewers railed against Dr. Valentine. “Awful doctor. He basis [sic] his medical decisions based off his political beliefs,” wrote Jeff S. from Newark, DE.

It seems important to note that Valentine is giving ample notice for his decision to see only vaccinated patients. October 1st is still over 40 days away, so there’s plenty of time for patients to get vaccinated if they want to continue seeing Valentine. Also, Valentine is not some roguish ER doc turning dying people away from the ICU, he’s a family doctor in general practice trying to keep his patients safe by advising them to get vaccinated if they aren’t and preventing those who are from coming into contact with folks more likely to spread the disease. “No conspiracy theories, no excuses,” he also reportedly wrote in his post, speaking directly to the anti-vaxxer legions helping fuel the latest surge.

So while some are questioning Valentine’s commitment to the Hippocratic oath — the physician’s code of ethics — I call bullshit. I can’t know his intentions, but personally, I think Valentine’s willingness to face scrutiny in an effort to protect his vaccinated patients from being infected is an act of chivalry, particularly given the dire state that Alabama is currently in.

Yesterday Alabama recorded 4,465 new cases of coronavirus, and 26 people died from COVID-related complications. Also yesterday, the state of Alabama requested help from the federal government because their hospitals are overflowing. Alabama governor Kay Ivey (R) , has said publicly that, “it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks,” for COVID surges, and Jeanne Marrazzo, another doctor in Alabama, told CNN that she sees a potentially “apocalyptic” future for Alabama.

Valentine’s actions may not be able to stave off the apocalypse, but from over here in Louisiana — another state facing high rates of COVID and low vaccination rates — he does seem like a bit of a hero. Valentine wrote on Facebook that three unvaccinated patients have asked him where they can get the vaccine since he posted the sign, AL reported. Every vaccination really does make a difference, both in immediately protecting an individual and in contributing to our species’ ability to fight this disease.