Adventist’s COVID-19 unit packed with unvaccinated patients, but this doctor treats them all with equal urgency


BAKERSFRIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Kern County vaccination rates are among the lowest in the state. And COVID-19 units throughout the county are filling up. How do local doctors feel about that? We asked.

Dr. Jonathan Dario is medical chair at Adventist Health Bakersfield, and in that role he has seen literally hundreds of patients suffering from the symptoms of COVID-19. Most recover — at least well enough to go home. Too many don’t — and in a few cases, even as they lie on their literal death beds, they’ve denied the severity, even sometimes the existence, of COVID-19.

“I have experienced patients who say they don’t really believe that, as sick as they are, that Covid was  real,” he said. “Maybe that’s the reason why  they didn’t have the vaccine.”

But he’s not angry. Can’t afford to be. Every patient deserves the best version of their attending medical professionals, he says.

“I’m not going to be mad at my patients for choosing that they don’t want the vaccine,” he said. “As a physician it would be my wish that I could talk to them.”

The vast majority of Covid patients, and the sickest of them, are unvaccinated. The percentages go up and down over the course of a few days, but at both the Adventist and Dignity hospitals last week unvaccinated patients represented 95 percent  — and up — of hospitalized Covid patients.

Dr. Dario has heard all the excuses for choosing not to vaccinate. His favorite is that mRNA vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna are examples — were rushed into wide use before they were adequately researched.

“Even though this is a much more broad use of mRNA vaccine, they’re been testing it for many years,” he said, “especially when they met the first SARS coronavirus. But by the time that they have it ready, unfortunately, actually our good fortune, that virus had pretty much died out. Essentially, that’s the research that made it viable that we were able to actually have that vaccine so quickly.”

Dr. Dario said he has on occasion overheard people discuss Covid-19 and the Covid vaccines and in the process repeat false or debunked claims. 

Is he ever tempted to interrupt and introduce himself?

“Of course I’ve heard it,” he said. “If you’re out and about of course you hear people talking. I’ve had the urge. I haven’t, myself, gone up to them.”

What’s the one bit of advice Dr. Dario has to offer that people should heed?

“The vaccine is very cheap for all of us. You’re getting ahead. You get something that’s going to make you essentially stronger. Your body already has the tools.”

 Dr. Dario says vaccinations are a personal choice. But if he were the chancellor of a university system or an NFL team owner, he said, he’d require it. 

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