Only 49% of frontline workers say they’ll get vaccinated, poll shows

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Just under half of frontline workers in a newly released poll say they would get vaccinated against COVID-19 — a rate of vaccine acceptance not much better than that of employees in other sectors, despite their greater risk of exposure.

About 49% of workers in health care and protective services polled between Dec. 1 and Dec. 6 said they would agree to receive a coronavirus vaccine that was free, at least 90% effective, approved by the Food and Drug Administration and widely available by the spring, according to the Gallup study published Tuesday. Thirty-four percent said they wouldn’t receive it, and 18% said they didn’t know.

“Modest vaccine acceptance rates among those whose occupations place them in the highest priority group are particularly concerning given the increased risk of workplace exposure to COVID-19 among those in healthcare and other essential sectors,” the Gallup report said, adding that it was “critical” to vaccinate workers who face the highest infection risk and play essential roles in the economy and public safety.

In contrast, 65% of frontline workers reported getting the flu vaccine the previous year, compared to 35% who hadn’t. This disparity between COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and previous flu vaccination could reflect the fact that many health-care facilities require workers to get vaccinated against influenza, the report said.

The report author highlighted the 18% who said they “don’t know” if they would get the COVID-19 vaccine. This response choice was not available in a separate Gallup poll conducted in December that found 65% of Americans overall would get vaccinated, and “could account for most of the difference in the estimates.”

The present survey’s findings, the report added, show “that there is some hesitancy to get the vaccine among workers in all sectors.”

Among workers in educational services, retail services and production occupations, 47% said they would agree to be vaccinated. Fifty-three percent of workers in other industries said they would get the coronavirus vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration in December granted emergency-use authorization to two vaccines made by Pfizer

and its German partner, BioNTech
and Moderna
While supply of the dual-dose vaccines is limited, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that health-care workers and long-term-care facility residents be offered initial vaccine doses, followed by frontline essential workers and people 75 and older. 

‘To me, it really makes it exceedingly important that we get correct information to health-care workers and that we quickly dispense with myths and misinformation.’

— Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases

About 44.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been distributed to states as of Tuesday morning, according to a CDC tracker, and 23.5 million doses had been administered. Some 19.9 million people have received one or more doses, and nearly 3.5 million people have received their two doses.

See also: When can younger, healthy people get vaccinated? A former Biden COVID-19 adviser says it will be months

Reports from multiple states have shed light on vaccine hesitancy among workers in health settings. A New York Times story this month suggested mistrust of authorities that have been unable to curb the virus’s spread, such as the federal government, helps drive this reluctance.

In an anonymous survey of more than 3,500 Yale Medicine and Yale New Haven Health employees, nearly 15% of whom indicated they were reluctant to take a COVID-19 vaccine, the most common reasons for vaccine hesitancy among health-care workers revolved around “long- and medium-term safety concerns.”

Some said nothing would make them comfortable taking the vaccine, while others had concerns about vaccine trials excluding groups such as pregnant women, as well as about minorities not being included as trial participants, the study found. The research was published as a commentary in late December in NEJM Catalyst.

A December report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found about 29% of health workers said they definitely or probably wouldn’t get vaccinated, also suggested that vaccine hesitancy among health-care workers varies across demographic groups, just as it does in the general population.

And the reasons vary: Black health-care workers may be concerned about safety and possible side effects, for example, while noncitizen workers may worry about their personal information being collected.

Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a Jan. 6 briefing that she was “definitely concerned” that some health-care workers were opting to wait to get vaccinated.

“To me, it really makes it exceedingly important that we get correct information to health-care workers and that we quickly dispense with myths and misinformation,” she said. “These are safe and effective vaccines. We have good data to show that.”

Messonnier added that she wanted to get that message out to health-care workers because “we want them not only to protect themselves, but we also want them to be educating their patients so that everyone across the United States understands that these vaccines are available, that they have a good safety profile, that they are working, and that these are the vaccines that can help us all end this pandemic.”

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