3 Reasons Healthcare Workers Are Putting Off Vaccination

3 Reasons Healthcare Workers Are Putting Off Vaccination surgeon general jerome adams gives a thumbs up as he is inoculated with the moderna vaccine Surgeon General Jerome Adams (Andrew Harnik/AP)

By Lynn Allison | Wednesday, 13 January 2021 04:31 PM

More than 20 million healthcare workers were among the first Americans scheduled for vaccination. But, according to Stateline, a division of Pew Charitable Trusts, only one-third of a panel of 13,000 nurses said they would voluntarily get inoculated.

Another third said they would not get the vaccine, and the remaining third said they were on the fence, according to the American Nurses Association.

Experts hoped healthcare workers would rush to get the COVID-19 vaccine since they are at greatest risk of contracting the disease. But statistics show the former is not the case, as some hospitals report 40% of their workers who are eligible for inoculation are not signing up.

"I am definitely concerned that healthcare workers are electing to wait to get vaccinated," said Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We want them not only to protect themselves, but we also want them to be educating their patients so that everyone across the United States understands that these vaccines are available, that they have a good safety profile, that they are working," she said in a press briefing.

According to Vox, experts say there are three big reasons for the reluctance of healthcare workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

  1. COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is unique. Healthcare workers are not against all vaccines but would rather wait and see how these rapidly developed inoculations play out in the real world, rather than rely on paper proof of their safety and efficacy.
  2. COVID-19 reluctance is linked to education. In a December survey conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation, of the 15% of adults who said they would definitely not get a COVID-19 vaccine, more than half had a high school education. Conversely, those who said they would get the vaccine as soon as possible were most likely to have minimally a college degree, according to VOX. People working in the field of healthcare include not only doctors and nurses, but also those in food services, transportation of patients, and cleaning crews.
  3. Historical reasons for not trusting the vaccines. According to Vox, 40% of healthcare workers in the U.S. are people of color who have often been the target of unfair medical practices. Systemic racism has made these groups among the hardest hit by the pandemic. African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans also tend to be in the high-risk group for complications and death because they are more likely to have underlying health issues such as asthma and heart disease, says USA TODAY.

Alison Buttenheim, Ph.D., associate professor of Nursing and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests 5 ways to motivate more Americans to get vaccinated. They include:

  • Have community and public leaders endorse the vaccine.
  • Label vaccination as a public act that also benefits others.
  • Make getting the vaccine free and accessible.
  • Encourage early signups to give people easy access.
  • Make having proof of vaccination a requirement for entry into schools, workplaces, gyms, restaurants, and airplanes.

"The sooner we get more people vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to some semblance of normal," Buttenheim said.