- Many health care workers are hesitant to get the experimental COVID-19 vaccines.
- One of the most common reasons given by health care workers for not getting the vaccine is a lack of data on the long-term effects of the vaccine.
- The CDC reported that addressing vaccine hesitancy among health care workers is their top priority since health care workers need to become “ambassadors” for the vaccine when it will be offered to the general public.
Frontline health care workers are the first to be offered the emergency use authorization (EUA) COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer, Inc. (and BioNTech SE) and Moderna, Inc. Many nurses and emergency-response workers, however, have expressed reluctance to get the vaccine.1
According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September 2020, 63 percent of health care personnel reported that they would be likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine.2 The American Nurses Foundation reported that 36 percent of nurses’ survey said they would not get the COVID-19 vaccine.3
Many health care professionals are concerned that the COVID-19 vaccine development occurred too quickly with not enough information about vaccine safety and side effects.4 Maryland-based registered nurse Amelia Foster said she would like to see longer-term data before she is confident it is safe. She said, “You just don’t know what the effects are and that’s scary.”
No one wants to be a guinea pig. Every medication out there has its risks and side effects. Not everyone is affected, but it could possibly make your immune system go haywire and that’s scary.5
Some younger medical workers are reluctant because of possible adverse effects such as infertility.6 Although the CDC has reported that the potential risks of messenger RNA vaccines to the pregnant person and the fetus are unknown because these vaccines have not been studied in pregnant women,7 the CDC and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant women if pregnant people are part of a group that is recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (e.g., health care personnel).8
Jessica Romanowski, a surgical technician at McLaren Flint Hospital in Flint, Michigan said:
My husband and I are also looking to start a family soon, and what long term side effects would this vaccine present to myself—or my child? History has shown us what can happen when drugs aren’t tested properly, that was evident with the drug thalidomide.9
Health Care Professionals are Expected to Be Vaccine “Ambassadors”
A survey conducted by the American Nurses Foundation found that only 57 percent of nurses were comfortable discussing COVID-19 vaccines with patients.10 Given that so many health care workers are expressing concerns and anxiety about the EUA COVID-19 vaccines, the CDC has said that addressing vaccine hesitancy among this group is a top priority because health care workers are also big influencers on their patients.11 12
“We encourage physicians to learn all they can because if we don’t have complete confidence in the vaccines, we’ll never convince our patients to have complete confidence,” said Susan Bailey, MD, president of the American Medical Association (AMA).13
William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine said:
Skepticism about something as new as this vaccine is reasonable whether you’re a health care worker or not. It’s a brand-new virus and brand-new vaccines developed with brand-new technologies. What could go wrong?14
He added, “We need a lot of information and a lot of reassurance. The facts aren’t enough. It will be very important for health care providers to get the vaccine so they can model the behavior and personalize their stories.”14
COVID-19 Vaccines May Become Mandatory for Health Care Workers
Currently, employers cannot force their health care workers to get the EUA COVID-19 vaccines; however, some hospitals and clinics have reportedly said that if nurses and other health care professionals continue to refuse to get vaccinated, they will require COVID-19 vaccination as a condition for employment.15 16
Click here to view References:
1 Huang P. Some Health Care Workers Are Wary Of Getting COVID-19 Vaccines. NPR Nov. 24, 2020.
2 ACIP Evidence to Recommendations for Use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine under an Emergency Use Authorization. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention September 2020.
3 American Nurses Association. Pulse on the Nation’s Nurses COVID-19 Survey Series: COVID-19 Vaccine. NursingWorld.org October 2020.
5 Broom S. ‘No one wants to be a guinea pig’ | Vaccine hesitancy divides health care workers. ABC 10 Dec. 2, 2020.
6 Singh S, Goldman H, LaVito A. Fears Prompt Some Medical Workers to Balk at Getting the Vaccine. Bloomberg Dec. 17, 2020.
7 Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States. CDC Dec. 20, 2020.
8 Vaccinating Pregnant and Lactating Patients Against COVID-19. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Dec. 13, 2020.
9 Wells K. Some Michigan healthcare workers torn on whether to get COVID-19 vaccine. The Detroit Free Press Dec. 14, 2020.
10 See Footnote 3.
11 Huang P. Some Health Care Workers Are Wary Of Getting COVID-19 Vaccines. NPR Dec. 1, 2020.
12 See Footnote 1.
13 Lee S. Most Healthcare Workers Are Excited To Get A Coronavirus Vaccine, But Some Have Questions. BuzzFeed News Dec. 15, 2020.
14 Vestel C. Health Care Workers Can Decline a COVID-19 Shot—For Now. The Associated Press Dec. 8, 2020.
16 See Footnote 5.