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One-third of health care workers leery of getting COVID-19 vaccine, survey shows


 

Nearly 60% of those working in a large health care system expressed their intent to roll up their sleeves to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but about one-third were unsure of doing so.

Moreover, 54% of direct care providers indicated that they would take the vaccine if offered, compared with 60% of noncare providers.

The findings come from what is believed to be the largest survey of health care provider attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination, published online Jan. 25 in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“We have shown that self-reported willingness to receive vaccination against COVID-19 differs by age, gender, race and hospital role, with physicians and research scientists showing the highest acceptance,” Jana Shaw, MD, MPH, State University of New York, Syracuse, N.Y, the study’s corresponding author, told this news organization. “Building trust in authorities and confidence in vaccines is a complex and time-consuming process that requires commitment and resources. We have to make those investments as hesitancy can severely undermine vaccination coverage. Because health care providers are members of our communities, it is possible that their views are shared by the public at large. Our findings can assist public health professionals as a starting point of discussion and engagement with communities to ensure that we vaccinate at least 80% of the public to end the pandemic.”

For the study, Dr. Shaw and her colleagues emailed an anonymous survey to 9,565 employees of State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, an academic medical center that cares for an estimated 1.8 million people. The survey, which contained questions intended to evaluate attitudes, belief, and willingness to get vaccinated, took place between Nov. 23 and Dec. 5, about a week before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the first emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine.

Survey recipients included physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, medical and nursing students, allied health professionals, and nonclinical ancillary staff.

Of the 9,565 surveys sent, 5,287 responses were collected and used in the final analysis, for a response rate of 55%. The mean age of respondents was 43, 73% were female, 85% were White, 6% were Asian, 5% were Black/African American, and the rest were Native American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, or from other races. More than half of respondents (59%) reported that they provided direct patient care, and 32% said they provided care for patients with COVID-19.

Of all survey respondents, 58% expressed their intent to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but this varied by their role in the health care system. For example, in response to the statement, “If a vaccine were offered free of charge, I would take it,” 80% of scientists and physicians agreed that they would, while colleagues in other roles were unsure whether they would take the vaccine, including 34% of registered nurses, 32% of allied health professionals, and 32% of master’s-level clinicians. These differences across roles were significant (P less than .001).

The researchers also found that direct patient care or care for COVID-19 patients was associated with lower vaccination intent. For example, 54% of direct care providers and 62% of non-care providers indicated they would take the vaccine if offered, compared with 52% of those who had provided care for COVID-19 patients vs. 61% of those who had not (P less than .001).

“This was a really surprising finding,” said Dr. Shaw, who is a pediatric infectious diseases physician at SUNY Upstate. “In general, one would expect that perceived severity of disease would lead to a greater desire to get vaccinated. Because our question did not address severity of disease, it is possible that we oversampled respondents who took care of patients with mild disease (i.e., in an outpatient setting). This could have led to an underestimation of disease severity and resulted in lower vaccination intent.”

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