Despite the Covid-19 death count in the United States rapidly accelerating, a startlingly high percentage of health care professionals and frontline workers throughout the country—who have been prioritized as early receipts of the coronavirus vaccine—are reportedly hesitant or outright refusing to take it, despite clear scientific evidence that the vaccines are safe and effective.
Nursing staff prepare the Covid-19 vaccine. (Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)
Earlier this week, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he was “troubled” by the relatively low numbers of nursing home workers who have elected to take the vaccine, with DeWine stating that approximately 60% of nursing home staff declined the shot.
Dr. Joseph Varon, chief of critical care at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center, told NPR in December more than half of the nurses in his unit informed him they would not get the vaccine.
Roughly 55 percent of surveyed New York Fire Department firefighters said they would not get the coronavirus vaccine, the Firefighters Association president said last month.
The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that hospital and public officials in Riverside, Calif., have been forced to figure out how best to allocate unused doses after an estimated 50% of frontline workers in the county refused the vaccine.
Fewer than half of the hospital workers at St. Elizabeth Community Hospital in Tehama County, Calif., were willing to be vaccinated, and around 20% to 40% of L.A. County’s frontline workers have reportedly declined an opportunity to take the vaccine.
A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 29% of healthcare workers were hesitant to receive the vaccine, citing concerns related to potential side effects and a lack of faith in the government to ensure the vaccines were safe. Frontline workers in the United States are disproportionately Black and Hispanic. The pandemic has taken an “outsized toll” on this segment of the population, which has reportedly accounted for roughly 65% of fatalities in cases in which there are race and ethnicity data. A study published by the journal The Lancet over the summer found “healthcare workers of color were more than twice as likely as their white counterparts” to test positive for the coronavirus. According to a Pew Research Center poll published in December, vaccine skepticism is highest among Black Americans, as less than 43% said they would definitely/probably get a Covid-19 vaccine. Dr. Juvvadi told NPR that “there’s no transparency between pharmaceutical companies or research companies — or the government sometimes — on how many people from” Black and Latino communities were involved in the research of the vaccine. Dr. Varon said that “the fact that [President] Trump is in charge of accelerating the process bothers” those individuals who refuse to be immunized, adding “they all think it’s meant to harm specific sectors of the population.” In an op-ed published in the New York Times earlier this week, emergency physicians Benjamin Thomas and Monique Smith wrote that “vaccine reluctance is a direct consequence of the medical system’s mistreatment of Black people” and past atrocities, such as the unethical surgeries performed by J. Marion Sims and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, best exemplifies “the culture of medical exploitation, abuse and neglect of Black Americans.”
“I’ve heard Tuskegee more times than I can count in the past month — and, you know, it’s a valid, valid concern,” said Dr. Juvvadi.
What To Watch For:
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a Friday interview that it’s “quite possible” the Covid-19 vaccine could be required for international travel and to attend school at some point in the future.
40 million. In early December, government officials said they planned to have 40 million doses available by the end of 2020, which would be enough to fully vaccinate 20 million Americans. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 3 million Americans have received the first dose of the vaccine, with 14 million doses have been distributed.
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