Many health care workers don’t trust vaccine, nationally and in Iowa

By: - July 20, 2021 5:29 pm

Even in Iowa nursing homes where a half-dozen residents or more have died of COVID-19, the percentage of workers who have been vaccinated against the virus is as low as 48%. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A small survey of health care workers in Iowa care facilities suggests many of them don’t believe the COVID-19 vaccines are safe.

The survey by Iowa Caregivers elicited responses from only 20 direct-care workers, but the results are consistent with some of the broader, national surveys and findings by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and others.

Of the 20 Iowa caregivers who responded to the April survey, 10 indicated they had not been vaccinated. Of those 10, all said access was not an issue and they were simply refusing the get the vaccine.

Seven of the 10 who said they are refusing gave a reason for their refusal. Six of the seven agreed with the statement, “I don’t trust the system and I don’t know who to believe.” Five agreed with the statement, “I don’t think they are safe,” and four agreed with the statement, “I don’t think they are necessary.”

Ten of 17 respondents answered yes to the question of whether they had lost a patient or client to COVID-19.

Earlier this month, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported that even in Iowa nursing homes where a half-dozen residents or more have died of COVID-19, the percentage of workers who have been vaccinated against the virus is as low as 48%.

Nationally, more hospitals, clinics and nursing homes are beginning to require their staff to be vaccinated – a trend that accelerated in May and June after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cleared the way for employer mandates.

Employers can now legally require COVID-19 vaccination for employees to re-enter the workplace and they can also provide incentives to encourage workers to get a shot, the EEOC ruled.

But employers still must provide reasonable accommodations for workers who are exempt from mandatory immunization based on the Americans with Disabilities Act or other federal laws. And the commission cautioned that while employer requirements and incentives are allowed, they can’t be “coercive” in nature, although it didn’t elaborate.

Many hospital workers unvaccinated

The new EEOC guidance was issued amid reports that one of every four of the nation’s direct-care hospital workers had not received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of May, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2,500 hospitals.

According to a national survey conducted in March by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, just over half of all frontline health care workers had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving 48% of the workforce unprotected despite the fact that health care workers were among the first groups prioritized for vaccine access.

More than one-third of the respondents said they were not confident the COVID-19 vaccines were sufficiently tested for safety and effectiveness. Acceptance was far greater among caregivers in hospitals (66%) than in nursing homes or assisted care facilities (50%), and only one in four home health care workers reported being vaccinated.

By far, black health care workers were the demographic group most hesitant to receive the vaccine, with 28% indicating they had no plans to be vaccinated.

At the time, 58% of all the respondents said they would support their boss requiring vaccination for all employees who work directly with patients, while 42% said they would oppose such a requirement.

A separate survey of 160 rural hospital leaders, conducted by the Chartis Center for Rural Health in March and April, found that nearly half of respondents said 21% to 50% of their staff had refused a COVID-19 vaccine.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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