Susan, an Alaska-based intensive care nurse, has been exposed to Covid-19 multiple times and seen dozens of people die from the disease. But he did not want to be vaccinated when he learned that it would soon be available.
“I am not an anti-vaccine, I have all the vaccines known to man, my flu shot, I always register there, on October 1, click me,” said Susan, who did not want to give her last name for fear of retaliation. “But for this one, why do I have to be a guinea pig?”
The two licensed vaccines, manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, are you sure according to leading experts and clinical trials (on the one hand, they do not contain live virus and therefore cannot provide Covid to a person) and, with tens of thousands of patients, they have been about 95% effective. But across the country, health workers with first access to the vaccine are rejecting it.
Rejection rates: up to 40% of frontline workers in Los Angeles County, 60% of home workers in ohio – have caused concern and, in some cases, shame. But the ultimate failure could be to discard these numbers at a critical moment in America’s vaccination campaign.
Dr. Whitney Robinson, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, told The Guardian if these first numbers from healthcare workers are not addressed: “It could mean that after all this work, after all this sacrifice , we could continue to see outbreaks for years, not just 2021, maybe 2022, maybe 2023. “
Vaccine hesitancy is common: 29% of healthcare workers said they were hesitant about vaccines, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation posted last month. And it’s not unique to the US: Up to 40% of healthcare workers in the UK could refuse the vaccine, the National Association for Caregivers said in mid-December.
The figures from hospitals and nursing homes are unique because they provide a more specific picture of who is refusing the vaccine and why. Once vaccines are available to the general public, the patterns will be more difficult to identify because the United States does not have a centralized system for tracking vaccines.
“If we don’t understand the patterns of who is not vaccinated, it will be difficult to predict where the outbreaks could come from and how far they could spread,” Robinson said.
It will also leave underfunded public health agencies struggling to identify and respond to concerns in the community.
“We can’t just dismiss someone’s decisions and say, well, that’s their personal decision,” Robinson said. “Because it is not just your personal decision, it is an infectious disease. As long as we have pockets of coronavirus anywhere in the world, until we have a massive global vaccination, it is a threat. “
Some employers and unions are seeing the numbers for what they are: an alarm that needs a response.
In New York City, the firefighters union found last month that 55% of 2,000 firefighters surveyed said they would not receive the vaccine.
But Covid cases are increasing at the FDNY. Twelve members have died and more than 600 were on medical leave late december.
So, the President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), Andrew Ansbro, collected questions from some of the approximately 8,200 firefighters his union represents. A virologist friend had been helping Ansbro shape the union’s response to Covid-19 and answered their questions in a recorded video. The 50 minute video it has now been viewed about 2,000 times.
“I actually got a couple dozen phone calls and messages from members saying they had changed their minds,” said Ansbro, who was vaccinated on December 29. “I think the vaccination figures will definitely be over 45%.”
Said people were concerned about how new the vaccine was, had read misinformation online and was concerned about the long-term effects. In other workplace surveys, people have shared concerns about how it might affect fertility or pregnant women. Some healthcare workers infected with Covid don’t think it’s necessary while they still have antibodies.
Each of these questions can be answered. And national polls have shown that, overall, doubts about vaccines are on the wane.
But these surveys also suggest that action is still needed to address populations that are most likely to be mistrustful due to the country’s history of medical abuse.
Recent polls show that blacks are the most averse to vaccines. In mid-November, 83% of Asian Americans said they would receive the vaccine if it were available that day. That sentiment was shared by 63% of Hispanics, 61% of whites but only 42% of blacks, according to a report from Pew Research.
Dr. Nikhila Juvvadi, clinical director of Loretto Hospital in Chicago, told NPR that conversations with vaccine-reluctant staff revealed that mistrust was a problem among African American and Latino workers.
He said people specifically mentioned the Tuskegee Study, when federal health officials allowed hundreds of black men with sexually transmitted diseases to go untreated to study disease progression. The study lasted from 1932 to 1972.
“I’ve listened to Tuskegee more times than I can count in the last month and, you know, it’s a valid and valid concern,” Juvvadi said.
Juvvadi, who administered the vaccines at the hospital, said that personal conversations validating these concerns and answering questions had helped people feel more comfortable with the vaccine.
Vaccine hesitancy in healthcare workers has also put pressure on healthcare systems trying to get doses to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
Georgia Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey announced last week that the state would expand access to the vaccine to adults 65 and older and to first responders because health workers refused to take it.
Dr. Toomey said that while hundreds of healthcare workers were on waiting lists to receive the vaccine in the urban center of the state, Atlanta, in rural areas the vaccine was “literally in freezers” because healthcare workers did not they wanted to take it.
At one of the Texas hospitals hardest hit by the virus, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Rio Grande Valley, workers contacted local EMTs, paramedics and medical workers outside the hospital to distribute the remaining vaccines due to their limited shelf life.
Susan, the Alaska nurse, said she would prefer her parents get the vaccine first because they are more vulnerable.
You have made peace with the vaccine and plan to receive it the next time it is offered. She said she was finally convinced to get it after speaking with other healthcare professionals who did not dismiss her concerns and listen to her questions.
Now, however, there is another obstacle. Susan has rejected the vaccine twice for logistical reasons. He is currently on a temporary crisis assignment in rural Texas and the trip meant that both times he was offered the vaccine, he would be in a different state when it came time to take the second dose. Susan said, “I feel terrible, I said no.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism