As reported January 2 by Forbes, many health care and other frontline workers are declining their initial opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. These workers have been prioritized as “first in line,” yet a high percentage of them are saying no for now, “despite clear scientific evidence that the vaccines are safe and effective.” Out of Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine has said he is “troubled” by the fact that about 60% of his state’s nursing home staff turned down the jab. And Dr. Joseph Varon who is chief of critical care at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, has said that, “more than half of the nurses in his unit informed him they would not get the vaccine.” The New York Firefighters Association has said that about 55% of NY firefighters said they would not get a COVID-19 vaccine. In Riverside, California officials are trying to figure out what to do with unused doses after about half of the county’s frontline workers declined a vaccine. Moving on, less than half of the hospital workers at St. Elizabeth Community Hospital in Tehama County in California were open to getting the vaccine, and in LA County about 20-40% of frontline workers have turned down the vaccine. Over at Chicago’s Loretto Hospital, a survey showed that 40% of hospital staff would not get vaccinated. From past wrongs to charged political times, motivating high participation not a slam dunk in America today.
Ghosts of Tuskegee Syphilis Study
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s survey discovered that 29% of healthcare workers were concerned about side effects and government safety efforts, and are “hesitant” to get vaccinated. Forbes notes that frontline workers are often Black or Hispanic, folks whose communities have fared the worst in the pandemic. A December Pew poll found that Black Americans have the highest rate of vaccine skepticism, with less than 43% saying they would get a COVID-19 vaccine. Some experts have noted that pharma and research firms have not been transparent as to how many Black and Latino folks were involved in the vaccine studies. Dr. Varon noted that, “the fact that [President] Trump is in charge of accelerating the process” bothers many folks. A New York Times op-ed by ER doctors Benjamin Thomas and Monique Smith said that, “vaccine reluctance is a direct consequence of the medical system’s mistreatment of Black people” such as unethical surgeries and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study as exemplifications of, “the culture of medical exploitation, abuse and neglect of Black Americans.”
Rushed Development Raises Concerns
Another look at vaccine hesitancy comes from The Miami Herald. They note that despite months of waiting for a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic, “some…frontline fighters are as afraid of the cure as they are the disease.” Down in Georgia, public health director Kathleen Toomey said that doses are “literally sitting in freezers” as health care workers won’t take the vaccine. Reluctance about both the Moderna and Pfizer products comes partly from the unprecedented speed of development. “We need to put to rest any concept that this was rushed in an inappropriate way,” Dr. Anthony Fauci has said. And while reluctance in the general public was expected, until products were available it was less known where health care workers stood on this issue. “I feel like the perception of the public with health care workers is incorrect. They might think we’re all informed of all of this. They might think that because we work in this environment,” Nicholas Ruiz, an office assistant at a California medical center noted. “But I know there’s a lot of people that have the same mentality as the public where they’re still afraid of getting it.”
UCSF Weighs In Factors in Devicesive
The University of California, San Francisco’s magazine recently took an overview of COVID-19 vaccine safety. They remind us that these vaccines were “developed with unprecedented speed and technical skill, but also amid a culture of mistrust and conflicting information.” The author opines that it is a “societal imperative” for all who can to get vaccinated, but he also points out that when to be vaccinated is more of a personal decision.
Noting that six months of data from phase 3 testing would help with guaranteeing safety, it is argues that some may want to wait that long. In contrast, emergency approval for the first two vaccines was based on only two months of phase 3 data, as recommended by the FDA in this emergency situation. UCSF points our that for those with a high exposure risk and a low side-effect risk, this period should be enough to ensure safety. Those with a lower risk of getting COVID-19 and a higher risk of complications from a vaccine, “may want to wait until we accumulate more information from longer follow-up times – perhaps six months from the start of the phase III trials.” Professor of medicine, epidemiology, and biostatistics Susan Buchbinder notes that while we don’t have all the data yet, ultimately, “we are going to need both a vaccine that induces high levels of protection against infectiousness, and a population willing to receive a vaccine.”