A vaccine to ward off the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 was said to be the panacea for the pandemic.
But the rapid development of the vaccines, along with early reports of side effects — some serious — has put people off to taking them, including those at the front lines.
“I don’t want to be a guinea pig,” Sheena Bumpas, a certified nursing assistant at a home in Duncan, Okla., told The New York Times last month.
Since then, thousands of health care workers across the U.S. have refused to get COVID-19 vaccines. “Up to half of health care workers in one California county and a Texas hospital say they will not get the shot, 60 percent of nursing home staff in Ohio are turning down the jab and 40 percent of frontline workers in Los Angeles won’t get it either, polls reveal,” the Daily Mail reported.
Said The Los Angeles Times: “At St. Elizabeth Community Hospital in Tehama County, fewer than half of the 700 hospital workers eligible for the vaccine were willing to take the shot when it was first offered. At Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, one in five frontline nurses and doctors have declined the shot. Roughly 20% to 40% of L.A. County’s frontline workers who were offered the vaccine did the same, according to county public health officials.”
So many frontline workers in Riverside County have refused the vaccine — an estimated 50% — that hospital and public officials met to strategize how best to distribute the unused doses, Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said.
A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly a third (29%) of frontline health care workers probably or definitely would refuse vaccination.
That number mirrors the percentage of Americans who are hesitant to take a vaccine. “About a quarter (27%) of the public remains vaccine hesitant, saying they probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists. Vaccine hesitancy is highest among Republicans (42%), those ages 30-49 (36%), and rural residents (35%),” the survey found.
“Importantly, 35% of Black adults (a group that has borne a disproportionate burden of the pandemic) say they definitely or probably would not get vaccinated, as do one third of those who say they have been deemed essential workers (33%) and three in ten (29%) of those who work in a health care delivery setting,” said the survey.
Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said on Thursday that about 60% of nurses there are refusing the shot. “We not going to make them, but we wish we had a higher compliance,” he said.
DeWine also warned health care workers that the vaccines won’t be available for long. “Our message today is: The train may not be coming back for awhile. We’re going to make it available to everyone eventually, but this is the opportunity for you, and you should really think about getting it.”