News from the FDA/CDC

CDC: Thirty percent of hospital workers in U.S. still unvaccinated


 

Some 30% of health care personnel who worked at the thousands of hospitals in the United States were still not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of mid-September, according to a new survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The snapshot in time – Jan. 20, 2021 to Sept. 15, 2021 – is based on voluntary weekly reports from hospitals. Only about 48% of the 5,085 hospitals in the U.S. Health and Human Services department’s Unified Hospital Data Surveillance System reported data on vaccination coverage during the period, and, after validation checks, the study included reports from 2,086 facilities, or just 41% of all hospitals, covering 3.35 million workers.

Overall, the number who were fully vaccinated rose from 36.1% in Jan. 2021 to 60.2% in April 2021, and then crept slowly up to 70% by Sept. 15, the CDC researchers reported in the American Journal of Infection Control.

The slowdown among hospital workers seems to mirror the same decline as in the general population.

Arjun Srinivasan, MD, associate director for health care–associated infection prevention programs at the CDC, said the decline in part may be the result of misinformation.

Health care personnel “are not fully immune from vaccine misinformation,” he said, adding that such misinformation “is contributing to decreased vaccine uptake among non–health care personnel.”

“The take-home message is that there is a lot of work to do in health care settings in order to get all of our health care personnel vaccinated,” Dr. Srinivasan told this news organization. “We need them to be vaccinated to protect themselves. It is also really important that we as health care personnel get vaccinated to protect our patients.”

Vaccine mandates

The analysis shows that workers were more likely to be vaccinated if they worked at a children’s hospital (77%), lived in metropolitan counties (71%), or worked in a hospital with lower cumulative admissions of COVID-19 patients, or lower cumulative COVID-19 cases.

The odds of being fully vaccinated were lower if the surrounding community had lower vaccination coverage. Workers in non-metropolitan counties (63.3%) and in rural counties (65.1%) were also less likely to be fully vaccinated, as well as those who were in critical access hospitals (64%) or long-term acute care hospitals (68.8%).

Surveys have shown that health care personnel who are vaccine-hesitant cited concerns they had about vaccine efficacy, adverse effects, the speed of vaccine development, and lack of full Food and Drug Administration approval, the study authors noted. In addition, many reported low trust in the government.

A Medscape survey this past April found that 25% of health care workers said they did not plan to be fully vaccinated. Some 40% of the 9,349 workers who responded said that employers should never require a COVID-19 vaccine for clinicians.

But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is attempting to require all health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid payment to vaccinate workers. All eligible staff must receive the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or a one-dose vaccine by Dec. 6, and a second dose by Jan. 4, 2022. The policy allows exemptions based on recognized medical conditions or religious beliefs.

Some hospitals and health systems and various states and cities have already begun implementing vaccine mandates. Northwell Health in New York, for instance, lost 1,400 workers (evenly split between clinical and nonclinical staff), or 2% of its 77,000 employees, as a result of the state’s mandate.

Northwell’s workforce is now considered 100% vaccinated, a hospital spokesman said in an interview. In addition, “we have allowed for team members who changed their minds and presented proof of vaccination to return,” said the spokesman, adding that “a couple of hundred employees have done just that.”

Ten states sued the Biden administration recently, aiming to stop the health care worker vaccine mandate. Other challenges to vaccine mandates have generally been unsuccessful. The U.S. Supreme Court, for example, in October declined to hear a challenge to Maine’s mandate for health care workers, even though it did not allow religious exemptions, according to the Washington Post.

“The courts seem to agree that health care personnel are different, and could be subject to these mandates,” said Dr. Srinivasan.

A version of this article first appeared on Medscape.com.

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