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COVID patient in Louisiana says he'd opt for hospitalization again over vaccine

Top Republicans push for COVID vaccinations
A growing number of Republicans urge people to get vaccinated as COVID-19 cases climb 04:02

A growing number of Republicans are encouraging Americans to get vaccinated, despite misinformation spread by right-wing commentators.

Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, the number two House Republican, announced yesterday that he has received his first Pfizer shot -- telling the vaccines are "safe and effective."

Louisiana's largest private hospital, Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center in Baton Rouge, has more COVID patients right now than any other hospital in the state. They admitted 23 patients in 24 hours over the weekend and filled up an entire floor of the hospital with just those patients.

CBS News' lead national correspondent David Begnaud was given access to one of the COVID units.

"I honest to God thought I walked my last day on this earth. I could not breathe. I just-- all of a sudden, my lungs just didn't work," Paula Johnson told Begnaud. She was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. "I have no comorbidities, nothing, never had a lung problem. Don't smoke, nothing. And it took my lungs and just... I don't even know how to explain it. It's like trying to breathe in and hitting a wall in like a second."

Johnson is a pharmaceutical researcher who put off getting the vaccine. Now she wants it.

"I'd say get the vaccine, take the chance, it can't hurt, all it can do is alleviate some of the symptoms, even if it doesn't keep you from getting it - it will at least help you get through it," Johnson said.

Roughly one in three Louisianans are fully vaccinated. This week, the state's health department reported the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since late February. Scott Roe is one of them.  

"Here I am recovering, getting out of here finally tomorrow. Am I going to get a vaccine? No," Roe said. "Because there's too many issues with these vaccines."

This father, former baseball coach, small business owner and hunter caught COVID and then developed pneumonia.

"Before you got sick," Begnaud asked Roe, "if you would have had a chance to get the vaccine and prevent this, would you have taken the vaccine?"

"No," Roe said. "I would have gone through this, yes sir… Don't shove it down my throat. That's what local, state, federal administration is trying to do - shove it down your throat."

"What are they shoving," Begnaud asked, "the science?"

"No they're shoving the fact that that's their agenda," Roe said, "their agenda is to get you vaccinated."

"You know who Mr. Scalise is?" Begnaud asked Roe.

"I know who Steve Scalise is very well," Roe said.

Roe, who is a Republican, had not heard that Congressman Scalise had stepped into the forefront Tuesday as a vaccine proponent. Begnaud asked him to read the congressman's statement.

"He thinks it's safe and effective," Roe said.

"And what's your reaction?" Begnaud asked.

"Not proven," Roe said.

"But does his opinion change yours?" Begnaud asked.

"No, it does not," Roe said.

Dr. Catherine O'Neal, chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, did not mince words.

"We are either going to get vaccinated and end the pandemic. Or we are going to accept death," O'Neal said.

"We're a proud state. We are a state of people full of grit," she continued. "So if you're pro-vax, you're going to tell everybody. If you're not, you're going to do the same thing. So how do we help find something that helps them come to the understanding that your community's going to die?"

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