Across the country, healthcare workers are choosing not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, for reasons ranging from political perception to potential side effects.
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) reported that 60 percent of nursing home workers declined the vaccine. In Los Angeles County, California, public health officials reported that roughly 20 percent to 40 percent of frontline workers refused the vaccine. Similar stories are being reported from other states, including Texas and Virginia. The Associated Press reported on January 8, 2021, that in some health care settings, up to 80 percent of the staff are declining to receive the vaccine.
Health care workers are considered a priority group for COVID-19 vaccines because government leaders see them as role models for vaccine compliance (see related story, page 5). A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that about 27 percent of the public remains vaccine-hesitant, reporting that they probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists. The same survey found that 29 percent of those that work in a health care delivery setting were vaccine-hesitant.
Hesitancy, One Reason
Politics could be influencing the perception of the COVID-19 vaccine, says Chad Savage, M.D., physician, founder of YourChoice Direct Care, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which co-publishes Health Care News.
“Despite pre-clinical trials that have suggested that the Moderna and Pfizer COVID vaccines are both safe and effective, there has been significant hesitation by many within the health care community to get these vaccines with as many as 50 percent of frontline workers choosing not to get them,” Savage said. “This has likely been greatly exacerbated by politicians such as Governor Cuomo who cast doubt on the vaccines for apparent political gain.”
Cuomo made numerous comments about the vaccine rollout, including an effort to speak with governors across the nation about fixing or stopping the vaccine rollout under President Trump before it has a widespread impact.
Perceptions of Getting Vaccinated
The risk from contracting COVID-19 needs to be considered when deciding to receive a vaccination, says Savage, especially for older individuals and those with pre-existing conditions.
“Though there remains significant variation in comfort level regarding the COVID vaccine, there should be much less hesitation amongst the elderly regarding getting the vaccine as they are at dramatically higher risk from the virus,” Savage said.
You should get the vaccine only in a place that is staffed and equipped to treat you, says Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association for American Physicians and Surgeons, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
“Shots are being given in drive-thru ‘pods,” Orient said. “You are advised to wait for a time in the parking lot before driving away. Medical personnel will be on the scene.”
Vaccine Side Effects
On January 6, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) safety data revealed that 11.1 out of one million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered reported an adverse anaphylaxis side effect. For comparison, the influenza vaccine sees 1.3 anaphylaxis responses per one million doses administered. There was not any information released about other side effects, such as a fever requiring hospitalization.
Many people experience fever, fatigue, headache, and achiness after the second shot, something employers might want to consider when scheduling vaccines for employees so not everyone calls in sick at the same time, Orient says.
Temporary Bell’s Palsy has been reported among some vaccine recipients, and vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant, Orient says.
There is also something called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) that could occur in persons who get infected after vaccination, Orient says.
“This has been reported with dengue, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and related coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-1,” Orient said. “Getting vaccinated may keep you from getting mild or severe symptoms if you get infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the cause of COVID-19), but may not prevent transmission to others. And rare individuals might get sicker due to ADE. Hence, you need to continue infection-control measures.”
Individuals can request “fact sheets” that come with vaccines and the CDC offers a smartphone app for individuals to report side effects and get reminders for a second dose. AAPS also offers information on home-based COVID Treatment.
Kelsey Hackem, J.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Washington State.