Why so many healthcare workers refuse to receive the coronavirus vaccine

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Health personnel expressed similar levels of resistance to the vaccine as the general population: around a third are resistant to it.  (REUTERS / Marco Bello)
Health personnel expressed similar levels of resistance to the vaccine as the general population: around a third are resistant to it. (REUTERS / Marco Bello)

Although they have priority in line for vaccine because they were the front line in the battle against COVID-19, Many health workers in the U.S they have resisted being vaccinated. Some refused outright; others rejected the dose now and promised to consider it in the future. It is, as AP described, a unexpected group in the refusal to vaccination, which in general has been promoted by anti-vaccine groups and disinformation.

“It happens in nursing homes and, to a lesser extent, in hospitals, where employees express what experts call unfounded fears of the side effects of vaccines that were developed at record speed”, Explained the agency. In some places “up to 80% of the staff resist.”

The agency cited a Portland, Oregon surgeon: “I don’t think anyone wants to be a guinea pig,” said Stephen Noble, 42. “At the end of the day, as a man of science, I just want to see what the data shows. Y I want the complete data“Said the doctor who for now has postponed the decision to receive the vaccine until April or May. “It is vital that the health authorities don’t exaggerate what you know about vaccines. This is especially important for African Americans like me, who distrust government medical advice due to past failures and abuses. “

Given that the denial of vaccination in general has been promoted by anti-vaccine groups and misinformation, it is astonishing that informed professionals are also resisting.  (REUTERS / Phil Noble)
Given that the denial of vaccination in general has been promoted by anti-vaccine groups and misinformation, it is astonishing that informed professionals are also resisting. (REUTERS / Phil Noble)

Los Angeles Times summarized some figures for the state of California, the most populous in the country, with 40 million inhabitants, and the one that suffered the most during the last wave of COVID-19: “At Tehama County St. Elizabeth Community Hospital, less than half of the 700 health workers who were able to receive the vaccine accepted it when it was first offered to them. At Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, one in five nurses and doctors in the firing line have rejected the dose. Approximately between 20% and 40% of Los Angeles County healthcare personnel The one who was offered the vaccine did the same. In Riverside County they have been so many who rejected the vaccine — 50%, it is estimated— that hospital officials and managers have met to draw up a strategy that will allow redistribute doses that were not used”.

On the east coast of the United States, The New Yorker observed the same phenomenon: “Despite having seen firsthand the ravages of COVID-19 —And doing a job that puts them in serious trouble danger, like their families– health workers expressed similar levels of vaccine resistance as the general population. Recent surveys show that, overall, around one third of them resists ”.

The poll December 2020 from the Kaiser Foundation showed, in effect, that the 29% of health workers “probably” or “without a doubt” would not accept the vaccine, just above the 27% of the general population average. Although the greatest divergence occurred when analyzing the political profile Of the people (42% of Republicans said they would not get vaccinated, versus 12% of Democrats), only need seemed to unite those who showed the least resistance: the over 65 years, the people who live in a home where someone has a serious illness and those who live in cities and they have agglomeration or transportation among their problems.

The New Yorker revealed that almost three-quarters of registered nurses had doubts about the vaccine. He cited other numbers that made astonishing differences: At the same Yale hospital in New Haven, the 90% of resident physicians accepted get vaccinated as soon as possible, but only the 42% of the maintenance staff and 33% of the kitchen. In Ohio, the 60% of nursing home staff refused the first dose and in North Carolina, about half.

“This hesitation is less a direct rejection than a cautious skepticism”, Evaluated the text. “She is driven by suspicions about the evidence supporting the new vaccines and the motives of those who support them. The astonishing speed of vaccine development has made science a victim of its own success: After being told that developing vaccines takes years, if not decades, many healthcare workers are reluctant to accept one that quickly went from conception to injection in less than 11 months”. In general, many wait as a strategy to see what new information emerges about the security after inoculation.

Nicholas Ruiz, administrative employee of the Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, Californiaexplained to Los Angeles Times that he Health personnel struggle with the same doubts, fears and misinformation about COVID-19 as the general public. “I think the public perception of healthcare workers is wrong. They may believe that we are all informed about everything, because we work in this area. But I know that there are many people who have the same perspective as the public for which they are still afraid of receiving it, “he said about the vaccine that, for now, he himself rejected.

Between 20% and 40% of Los Angeles County healthcare workers who were offered the vaccine declined.  (REUTERS / Lucy Nicholson)
Between 20% and 40% of Los Angeles County healthcare workers who were offered the vaccine declined. (REUTERS / Lucy Nicholson)

Some women, who are pregnant or who are looking for a pregnancy in the future, do not want to be vaccinated for fear of long term consequences of the formulas. April Lu, a 31-year-old nurse in Providence-Holy Cross, is one of them: her baby will be born in three months. “I am choosing between risks: risk of having COVID and the risk of the unknown with the vaccine. I think I choose the risk of COVID: I can control and prevent it, a little, using mask, although it is not 100% safe ”.

To persuade the doubters, many hospitals appeal to How-to videos, interactive webinars, free breakfasts, a cash bonus, paid days off, and even a car raffle, summarized AP. It’s all they can do, officials from the health system of the University of California in Los Angeles explained to the newspaper, UCLA Health: “We don’t ask the staff to decide right away if they want to get the vaccine. We want to give those who are offered the enough time to make a decision, and we hope that staff continue to understand that the benefits of vaccination clearly outweigh the risks. “

In addition to the politicization of public health issues that were suffered in the United States because the The first year of the pandemic was also an election year, there is a Deeper distrust of both the political system and the health sector, highlighted The New Yorker. “And it is exacerbated among health personnel, who are undervalued and underpaid,” he added.

To persuade the doubters, many hospitals turn to instructional videos, interactive webinars, free breakfasts, a cash bonus, paid days off, and even a car raffle.  (REUTERS / Marco Bello)
To persuade the doubters, many hospitals turn to instructional videos, interactive webinars, free breakfasts, a cash bonus, paid days off, and even a car raffle. (REUTERS / Marco Bello)

“In many cases, doubts about vaccines are not a problem of lack of information. It is a problem of lack of trust“David Grabowski, professor of health policy at Harvard. “The staff don’t trust the leadership. Have true skepticism of the government. They have not received extra payments for the risk. They have not received personal protective equipment. They have not received respect. Should we be surprised that they are skeptical of something that seems to be imposed on them?

Kia Cooper, a nurse with two decades of experience, from the area of Philadelphia, is one of those who rejected the vaccine due to doubts. “I’m not totally against it,” he told the publication, “but they rushed it a lot.” She wants to wait to “see how others are doing” Because, in his industry experience, healthcare companies tend to put profit above the interests of patients and staff, he said. “I wonder if it is for money. Son big companies trying to impose these products on everyone. You have to think: are they doing it for us or are they just trying to make money?

Among health workers surveyed by Kaiser The main concerns were similar: fear of side effects, lack of confidence in the state to guarantee the vaccine safety, concern for the role that politics may have played In its development. In some online forums, the researchers cited, some healthcare workers said frustration at being the first on the list: they did not see it as a privilege but as a experimentation with their bodies.

US health personnel expressed fear of the side effects of the vaccine, lack of confidence in the state to guarantee their safety, concern about the role that politics may have played in its development and even the idea of ​​being guinea pigs.  (iStock)
US health personnel expressed fear of the side effects of the vaccine, lack of confidence in the state to guarantee their safety, concern about the role that politics may have played in its development and even the idea of ​​being guinea pigs. (iStock)

This is how things happen like the one Richard Wickenheiser, Tehama County Health Officer, told Los Angeles Times: of the first 495 doses that the municipal state managed to get for St. Elizabeth Community Hospital workers, “They gave us 200 back.”

The governor of Carolina del Sur, Henry McMaster, proposed that a deadline for nurses and doctors to have priority in vaccination, and that those who rejected it “go to the end of the line.” In the state of Georgia, the automatic redistribution of those vaccines rejected in hospitals and nursing homes for the essential workers, firefighters and police. “We have vaccines available but they are literally waiting in the freezer,” said Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey. “It is unacceptable. We have lives to save ”.

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