“When it comes to the safety of others, when it comes to a global health problem, community health problem, at this point I really say, ‘This is where it draws a line in the sand for me.’”
She recently sent out a letter to patients, 10 to 15 per cent of whom she estimates don’t want to get the vaccine, that they would need to get the jab by 15 September to keep seeing her in person.
“We will no longer subject our patients and staff to unnecessary risk,” the letter reads. “This is a public health emergency — the health of the public takes priority over the rights of any given individual in this situation. It appears that there is a lack of selflessness and concern for the burden on the health and wellbeing of our society from our encounters.”
Dr Marraccini has said her office will continue offering telemedicine to unvaccinated people, as well as making referrals to other physicians for patients who won’t or can’t comply with the rule. Those who can’t get a Covid for medical reasons are granted an exception under her office’s new policy.
Florida is struggling with the worst phase of Covid yet, with new cases reaching levels between July and early September that exceeded even the early stages of the virus, before widespread vaccine availability in the US. At the peak of Florida’s latest, Delta-fuelled surge, there were nearly 25,000 new cases a day.
But making vaccination status mandatory could put Dr Marraccini, and others, in the crosshairs of Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who has taken a hardline against public health measures like mask mandates and vaccine requirements.
On 16 September, the state will start issuing fines of up to $5,000 to business, schools, and government agencies that ask for vaccine status. Governor DeSantis also opened the state up rapidly in May 2020, didn’t implement further closures as the pandemic ramped up in the summer and winter of 2020, and has tried to block schools from setting up mask mandates.
Late in August, a Florida judge held that schools can’t be stopped from issuing masking rules, a ruling which state authorities like the governor’s office have vowed to challenge in higher court.
Florida ranks 21st nationally for its vaccination rate, which roughly tracks the national average.