EDINBURG, Texas – The chief medical officer for DHR Health says the efforts he and his colleagues are making to help patients recover from Covid-19 are not being helped by misinformation about the vaccine.

“It is important for people to get their information from good, newsworthy sources, not social media jokers. That is important,” Dr. Robert Martinez said, in an in-depth interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service

“The misinformation is a travesty. We should be way more ahead as a region. I am a little disappointed.”

Dr. Robert Martinez

Martinez said studies have shown the Covid vaccine to be “way more effective” than vaccines for other ailments. He said he cannot understand why some residents in the Rio Grande Valley are resistant to taking it.

“It is incredible, people just have an urge to fight, or be ignorant. I do not know what it is. It is very aggravating. It is not about liberty and personal choice, it is about doing the right thing when you have the tools to do it,” Martinez said.

“Otherwise, when you get sick, don’t come to the hospital, don’t waste space for somebody who at least tried to do the right thing for the community. You can’t say that but I know that is what a lot of people are thinking.”

Asked how bad the misinformation on social media is about the Covid-19 vaccine, Martinez said: “It is pretty bad. I think to some extent they should be held accountable. They need to find information from credible sources and they need to learn to ask questions and educate themselves. There is a lot of personal responsibility with this disease. It is more important than ever, not to try to blame it on this person or that person. Or freedom issues. That is pretty weak. Everybody has a responsibility.”

Dr. Martinez’s remarks echoed those made by Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Osterholm was asked about the misinformation in an interview on MSNBC. He said: “A rumor that 6,700 people had died after taking the vaccine. Actually not true. A rumor that the vaccine makes you sterile. Absolutely not true. And so it is amazing once a disinformation piece of information becomes talked about it becomes fact.”

Osterholm said getting the vaccine today is not just about protecting oneself. “If you are an adult it is about protecting your kids from getting the virus.”

In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Dr. Martinez spoke with pride about the effectiveness of monoclonal antibodies, which are made by cloning a unique white blood cell. If used early enough, monoclonal antibodies can dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. However, they are not available to everyone just yet.

“It is really pretty miraculous. It is like they are giving you a completely new immune system. It is expensive. It is not normally given under any circumstances so to be able to have it…” Martinez said.

“This is unprecedented to be able to give something like this so regularly, to keep people out of the hospital. It is a great opportunity. It is world class treatment, no doubt. They (monoclonal antibodies) are like gold.” 

Asked if there are any unique circumstances in the Valley that make the job of healthcare professionals harder, Martinez answered affirmatively.

“Yes, big families in households that live together. It is a good thing, you live in a household with your grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, kids, grandkids. Now, all that is a giant source of infection. You can pretty much bet that if one gets it, everyone is going to get it.”

Martinez said it may be “very different to up north” where there are not so many multi-generational family households. 

“My transmission rate among entire families is significantly higher than a lot of other folks in the country,” Martinez said. “What is usually a great thing, I think, and culturally acceptable here has really turned out to be a big problem for a lot of folks. Not realizing it (the delta variant) is very transmissible and you can end up getting everybody sick.”

DHR Health remains the largest state-approved hub for administering Covid-19 vaccines south of San Antonio. It has so far given shots to more than 250,000 patients.

Editor’s Note: The above podcast is the second in a two-part series with Dr. Robert Martinez. Click here to read about and listen to part one.

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