PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The union that represents more than 7,000 nurses and healthcare professionals statewide is urging all unvaccinated Rhode Islanders to get immunized against COVID-19 if they haven’t done so already.

The United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) launched a campaign Thursday that encourages everyone to protect themselves and others by getting fully vaccinated and boosted against the virus.

The campaign, according to UNAP, features several video interviews with nurses who have worked on the frontlines of the pandemic over the past two years.

“I’ve seen more people pass in the eight months that I worked in the COVID ICU than I’ve seen in the 10 years of my career,” Rhode Island Hospital ICU nurse Sherry-Ann Johnson said in her video interview.

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UNAP President Lynn Blais said the campaign is designed to educate Rhode Islanders about the emotional and physical toll this pandemic has taken on healthcare professionals.

“As the union representing frontline healthcare workers, we feel it’s important for us to help tell the stories of the people we represent, so Rhode Islanders can hear it first-hand,” Blais said. “We hope to help unvaccinated and unboosted Rhode Islanders understand that the impact of not getting the vaccine and/or the booster goes far beyond their own personal interest.”

“The majority of COVID patients in our ERs and ICUs are unvaccinated and it’s impacting our hospitals’ ability to deliver quality care,” she continued. “It’s exacerbated the staffing shortage that was already at crisis levels even before the pandemic. The end result is, unvaccinated people continue to be sick and take up hospital beds, Rhode Islanders with other medical issues can’t get the care they need and deserve, and our frontline caregivers are the ones who bear the brunt of it.”

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Rhode Island’s hospitals have been dealing with a surge in COVID-19 patients for months, likely linked to the omicron variant, on top industry-wide staffing shortages.

“If you come in, you’re not going to get sufficient care,” Kent Hospital ICU nurse Trish Criner said in her video interview. “That’s how bad it is, because there are so many unvaccinated people that are filling up our ICUs and they are filling up our beds.”

The situation became so dire that President Joe Biden deployed two military medical teams to the state’s two largest hospitals to provide much-needed assistance.

But the medical teams are not a permanent solution, and will only be providing assistance for the next few weeks.

That’s why UNAP hopes these videos will encourage Rhode Islanders to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“While there are a lot of actions the hospitals and state can take that tinker around the edges, the only real way to solve this immediate crisis is to get more people vaccinated and boosted to keep the number of admissions down,” Blais said. “No one understands the devastating toll that COVID-19 has taken more than nurses and health professionals … An individual who gets vaccinated not only protects themselves, but they also protect their fellow Rhode Islanders, including frontline healthcare workers.”

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The video interviews will be played across the Rhode Island media market, including on TV and social media. Those interviews can also be viewed in full by clicking here »