A Florida doctor said she will no longer treat primary care patients in person who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Linda Marraccini, a family medicine doctor in South Miami, sent a letter to patients informing them that because the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for general use by the Food and Drug Administration, unvaccinated individuals will no longer be allowed to attend in-person appointments at her practice.
“This is a public health emergency — the health of the public takes priority over the rights of any given individual in this situation,” Marraccini wrote in the letter, obtained by NBC Miami. “It appears that there is a lack of selflessness and concern for the burden on the health and well-being of our society from our encounters. “
The decision comes amid a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of new variants like the highly-transmissible delta variant. Florida’s 7-day rolling average of new cases is the second highest of any state. The state has the second-most people hospitalized with COVID-19, despite an 11% decrease over the past week.
Marraccini’s policy is scheduled to go into effect Sept. 15, but she told Newsweek she will continue to see unvaccinated patients who have not found a new practice by that date via telehealth visits, particularly those who need prescriptions or who have not received the vaccine due to hardships.
“We will no longer subject our patients and staff to unnecessary risk,” Marraccini said.
The letter also states that she will work with patients who have a valid medical reason for not receiving the vaccine, though she notes that such cases are virtually nonexistent according to most medical professionals.
While Marraccini told Newsweek the response to the policy has been largely positive, some backlash online has accused her of violating the Hippocratic oath, a pledge of ethics that many medical professionals uphold which largely centers treating any ill patient to the best of one’s ability.
However, Marraccini told Newsweek that the oath also emphasizes prevention. She said she has patients who are immunocompromised or undergoing chemotherapy and are therefore at higher risk of having a severe or deadly case of COVID-19, so limiting their exposure to unvaccinated people protects them from harm.
According to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a modern version of the Hippocratic oath says:
“I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure…I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body, as well as the infirm.”
Marraccini is also not the first doctor to refuse to treat unvaccinated patients. In August, Alabama physician Jason Valentine announced in a now-deleted Facebook post that he would not see anyone who is not vaccinated as of Oct. 1.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law in May that bans business, government or educational entities from requiring people to prove their COVID-19 vaccination status. It is unclear whether the law will apply to Marraccini’s medical practice.
Marraccini has previously been an opponent of DeSantis’ management of the COVID-19 pandemic. In early August, she signed on to an open letter published in the Tampa Bay Times with 144 other Florida medical professionals that implored the governor to advocate for vaccinations and mandate masks in schools.
“As the virus burns through Florida, health care providers feel we are fighting this fire without any leadership from Gov. Ron DeSantis,” the letter says. “What’s heartbreaking and infuriating for us as doctors is watching children needlessly suffer while Gov. DeSantis rejects simple protections such as masks and vaccinations.”