Some health care workers refuse COVID-19 vaccine out of fear

Judith J. Mercado

Jennifer Van Aernem, Director of Education at the Conway Medical Center (CMC) holds a vial of the Pfizer issued coronavirus vaccine. The CMC took delivery of 975 doses of the Pfizer issued COVID-19 vaccination on Monday and immediately began vaccinating hospital staff. By Monday afternoon 105 workers had registered to […]

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Jennifer Van Aernem, Director of Education at the Conway Medical Center (CMC) holds a vial of the Pfizer issued coronavirus vaccine. The CMC took delivery of 975 doses of the Pfizer issued COVID-19 vaccination on Monday and immediately began vaccinating hospital staff. By Monday afternoon 105 workers had registered to get the two-part vaccination. December 14, 2020.

For the better part of a year, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals have held out hope for a means to beat the COVID-19 pandemic — but now that the solution is here, some of those frontline fighters are as afraid of the cure as they are the disease.

Doses of coronavirus vaccine are “literally sitting in freezers” in parts of rural Georgia because health care workers there are refusing to take it, the state’s public health director Kathleen Toomey said during a Thursday news conference, 11Alive reported.

“That’s unacceptable,” Toomey said. “We have lives to save.”

Wednesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine decried vaccine fears in his state, saying that 60% of nursing home staff had opted not to get inoculated against the coronavirus, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Similar scenarios are playing out in California, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Less than half of the 700 eligible workers at a hospital in Tehama County took the vaccine when it became available, and a fifth of the medical staff at a hospital in the LA suburb of Mission Hills turned it down as well, the LA Times reported.

The reluctance to be among the first to take either Moderna or Pfizer’s COVID vaccine — both of which were created, tested, and shipped out at unprecedented speed — comes despite repeated reassurance from experts that they are safe and effective.

“We need to put to rest any concept that this was rushed in an inappropriate way,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a November press conference of the coronavirus task force, McClatchy News previously reported.

The two vaccines proved roughly 95% efficacious in human trials.

“Help is on the way,” Fauci said.

Officials have known for months that some of the general public was hesitant toward the vaccine, McClatchy reported. Where health care workers stood on the issue was foggier.

Not everyone is surprised to see that some in the medical profession are distrustful of the rapidly produced vaccine — even in the face of evidence that it’s safe.

“I feel like the perception of the public with health care workers is incorrect. They might think we’re all informed of all of this. They might think that because we work in this environment,” Nicholas Ruiz, an office assistant at a Salinas, CA medical center told the LA Times. “But I know there’s a lot of people that have the same mentality as the public where they’re still afraid of getting it.”

April Lu, a 31-year-old nurse, who is six months pregnant, opted out.

“I’m choosing the risk — the risk of having COVID, or the risk of the unknown of the vaccine,” Lu told the LA Times. “I think I’m choosing the risk of COVID. I can control that and prevent it a little by wearing masks, although not 100% for sure.”

Dr. Fauci took the vaccine on camera earlier this week, one of several public figures to do so, in an effort to build trust.

He described the side effects as “nothing serious at all,” and “even as good or better than an influenza vaccine,” McClatchy reported.

Most of the country is further behind on coronavirus vaccine distribution than expected; the rollout process has been slow going, McClatchy reported. Fewer doses have been administered than hoped, as well.

So far, 2 million doses have been used out of the 14 million shipped to states in the U.S.

“That number is lower than what we had hoped for,” Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser on the government’s vaccine rollout said. “We know it should be better, and we are working hard to make it better.”

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Mitchell Willetts is a real-time news reporter covering the Carolinas for McClatchy. He is a University of Oklahoma graduate and outdoors enthusiast.

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