Infectious Disease

Many expert nurses aren’t vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19

February 04, 2021

2 min read

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Gharpure and Schaffner do not report any relevant financial information.

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The researchers found that a large percentage of staff in skilled care facilities with access to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic were not vaccinated, raising concerns about vaccine hesitation.

Writing in MMWR, Radhika Gharpure, DVM, MPH, an epidemiologist and member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Response Team, and colleagues noted a long list of articles describing reluctance to use the vaccine among long-term care facility staff (LTCFs), including a November survey that found only 45 % of respondents said they were willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine right away, and 24% said they would “think about it” in the future.

Gharpure quote

In the past, influenza vaccine intake has also been a problem among LTCF workers, although most older adults believe that LTCF workers should be vaccinated.

“It is a public health priority to ensure that long-term care facility staff have access to COVID-19 vaccinations – and have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of those vaccines,” said Gharpure said Healio. “We know that vaccine hesitation in general – not just COVID-19 vaccine specific – is higher among LTCF employees than other healthcare workers.”

William Schaffner

Gharpure and colleagues examined the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in LCTFs in the first month of the CDC’s pharmacy partnership program for long-term care. They estimated the number of eligible employees and residents enrolled in qualified care facilities using census information from the National Healthcare Safety Network and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Payroll-Based Journal. This included employees and local residents who had access to at least one vaccination clinic between December 18, 2020 and January 17, 2021 during the first month of the CDC program.

Among 11,460 qualified care facilities with at least one vaccination clinic, the approximate median was 77.8% (interquartile range) [IQR] = 61.3% -93.1% of residents and 37.5% (IQR = 23.2% -56.8%) of employees received one or more COVID-19 vaccine doses, according to Gharpure and colleagues.

“Influenza data suggests vaccinating staff is just as important – and often more important – than vaccinating residents themselves to protect patients,” said the editor of the Infectious Disease News William Schaffner, MD, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said Healio. “Realizing this will be very important in order to take this as the primary responsibility for the well-being of all residents.”

Gharpure noted that the frequency of COVID-19 vaccine reluctance among health workers is “worrying” and that the CDC is currently developing ways to address “obstacles and challenges” to vaccination. She also said that the vaccination rate in this study may have been affected by the winter holidays, which may have reduced the occupancy of the facilities.

“The vaccination rate could have increased with the subsequent clinics in the facilities,” said Gharpure. “However, the data in this MMWR does not account for the reasons behind the vaccination rates and further investigation is needed.”

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