More health care workers are getting vaccinated than at the start of the pandemic.
A new study out of Northwestern University shows that many health care workers who had initially refused to get vaccinated or were hesitant to have changed their minds since the start of the pandemic and have decided to receive their shots. The research team surveyed 4,200 health care workers at Northwestern Medicine when COVID-19 vaccines first became available in late 2020, early 2021. At that time, three-quarters said they intended to get the shots. A second survey administered a few months later found that 95% had been vaccinated (including 90% of those who were originally hesitant).
“This study found health care workers’ attitudes about COVID-19 vaccination could change in a very short period of time,” said lead study author Charlesnika Evans, a professor of preventive medicine in epidemiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “It shows there is opportunity to change people’s decisions about not getting vaccinated.”
The team also reported, “Of those who initially said they didn’t plan to get vaccinated, nearly 60% had done so by spring,” according to findings recently published in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.
There are several factors the the researchers feel helped to change the minds of the workers who were unsure or who did not want to receive their shots. They noted these as messages regarding “vaccine safety; easy access to shots at the hospital; awareness that workplace mandates were on the way; and emergency use authorization (EUA) of vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”
“We saw a significant change in the number of people who said they would get the vaccine after the EUA was issued,” Evans said. “People may have felt, ‘Okay, this might be safe for me to take.’”
The surveys found that nurses were less likely than doctors to say they intended to get vaccinated. Black people were less likely than Asians, and women were less likely than men. The team cited that the gender disparity has had somewhat to do with fears over reproductive health and the safety of unborn children. Workers older than 65 were more likely than those who were younger, demonstrating the safety precautions being taken by this vulnerable population.
Evans cited that at least part of the hesitancy for Black individuals to get their shots is mistrust of the health care system, in general.
“That’s a larger issue to be addressed within society in general that goes way beyond this study,” she added. “We must continue thinking about how to improve our messaging and addressing the issues around mistrust toward the health care system. This is imperative for COVID-19 and other conditions.”
There is also still much mistrust from pregnant women who fear for the safety of their fetuses and women who were planning to become pregnant.
“The fact that they didn’t actively recruit pregnant women into the vaccine studies makes sense early on, but to prove and be sure it’s safe and effective, inclusion of these groups in trials is important,” Evans said. However, she added, “Data release from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that pregnant women have not experienced more adverse events than the general population.”