March 25, 2021

Charted: How frontline health care workers feel about Covid-19 vaccines

Daily Briefing

    Nearly half of front-line health care employees have not yet received a Covid-19 vaccine—and of those, a majority say they aren't sure whether they will get vaccinated or have decided not to do so, according to a new survey from the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

    Radio Advisory episode: Vaccinating the globe, the ultimate systemness challenge

    For the poll, the Post and KFF surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,327 front-line health care workers from hospitals, doctors' offices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, assisted care facilities, and home health care between Feb. 11 and March 7.

    'Unconvinced, unreached, and unprotected'

    Overall, the survey found that just 52% of respondents said they had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Of the remaining 48% who said they had not been vaccinated, 61% said they either had not yet decided to whether they were getting a vaccine or did not plan to get one—findings that according to the Post indicate many health care workers "remain unconvinced, unreached, and unprotected."

    According to the poll, the vast majority (96%) of those who said they were not planning on getting a vaccine or were undecided cited concerns about possible side effects as a factor in their decision, while nearly 90% said they did not trust the government to ensure the vaccine was safe and effective.

    The three coronavirus vaccines authorized for use in the United States—manufactured by Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson—all have undergone extensive, placebo-controlled clinical trials that included tens of thousands of participants of all ages, races, and ethnicities. According to data released as part of FDA's authorization process, all three vaccines proved highly effective in preventing Covid-19 and nearly 100% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths from the disease.

    Further, the clinical trials showed that side effects from all three vaccines were generally mild and posed dramatically lower risks than Covid-19 itself, which so far has killed more than 543,000 people in the United States. More than one-quarter of Americans have now received a vaccine, according to the New York Times, and no evidence has emerged of any widespread, serious side effects.

    Some health care workers, however, remain concerned. Shelly Robinson, a long-term care nurse in New York, said, "I don't think there is enough research." She added, "I'm going to wait…until there are more studies done."

    The survey found that two-thirds of those who work directly with patients at hospitals, 52% of those working at doctors' offices, 50% of those working at nursing homes or assisted-care facilities, 39% of those who are self-employed, and 26% of those working in patients' homes said they had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

    Of those who had been fully or partially vaccinated, nearly 80% said they had received their doses from their employers. Moreover, of those health care workers who said they planned to get vaccinated but had not yet made an appointment, more than 60% said they planned to get vaccinated via their employer—although about 30% said their employer had not offered the vaccination.

    However, a full 16% of respondents said they would rather leave their job than get vaccinated themselves. "I'd quit if work told me I had to take it," Sandy Hull, an RN who lives outside of Indianapolis, said. "I wouldn't run the risk of ruining my health to continue working."

    Vaccination rates varied significantly by race and ethnicity as well, the poll found, with under half of Black and Hispanic respondents reporting having been vaccinated.

    According to the poll, while 53% of health care workers overall said they had been encouraged by colleagues to receive a vaccine, just 40% of Black health care workers reported their colleagues had encouraged them to get vaccinated—compared with more than 50% of white health care workers.

    And that encouragement was key to getting people vaccinated, the Post reports. "All that knowledge. After that, I was a lot more comfortable," Lorena Esquivel, a patient access representative in California said, noting that her access to colleagues was crucial to her decision to get vaccinated herself.

    Rates also varied by income and education. For instance, nearly 70% of health care workers with household incomes of at least $90,000 had been vaccinated, compared with about 50% of those with incomes between $40,000 and $90,000 and roughly 30% of those with incomes lower than $40,000. Meanwhile, more than 70% of those with a postgraduate degree reported that they had been vaccinated, compared to 40% of those with an associate degree or less.

    Meanwhile, of those vaccinated, over 90% said they experienced either no side effects or minor side effects as a result of the vaccine. Of the 6% who reported major side effects, the most common were aches, pain, tiredness, headache, fevers, or chills (Weixel, The Hill, 3/19; Wan et. al., Washington Post, 3/19; Washington Post-KFF Frontline Health Care Workers survey, 3/19).

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