Vaccine Hesitant Health Care Workers Want More Data

Frank Diamond

Frank Diamond has been with Infection Control Today since November 2019. He has more than 30 years of experience working for magazines, newspapers, and television news.

Some health care workers who are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine are waiting to see what the vaccine does to their colleagues who have gotten it first, a study suggests.

After you, by all means. That seems to be the attitude of some health care workers (HCWs) who are hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine for now. You, first. They’re wary because the vaccines were granted under emergency use authorization (EAU) and want to see more data collected over time to ensure their safety, according to investigators with McGill University Faculty of Medicine, Montreal, Canada.

“Our study identified the desire to let other individuals receive the vaccine first as an important reason to decline vaccination,” according to their study in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC). Investigators add that the results suggest “that many who hesitate or refuse vaccination initially, could accept vaccination in the future, providing that their reasons for hesitancy are alleviated.”

Investigators surveyed 2761 HCWs at a huge public health care organization in Montreal called Centre Intégré Universitaire de Santé et de Services Sociaux Centre-Ouest-de-Montréal (CIUSSS COMTL) between December 15, 2020 and December 28, 2020. Of that group, 2233 (80.9%) said that they would get vaccinated while 528 (19.1%) said that they would not. The respondents worked in various health care settings including acute care, long term care, rehabilitation, community health, and primary care.

The survey listed 15 possible reasons for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and “four (27%) were identified as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ by more than half of those who refused the vaccine,” the study states. “These included: the concern that this vaccine is new (82% agreement); the preference to let other people receive the vaccine first (77% agreement), the lack of available information about the vaccine (74% agreement); and the lack of time to make their decision (60% agreement).”

Some survey respondents said that they did not trust pharmaceutical companies (35%) and health care experts (27%). In addition, a quarter of respondents said that they’d prefer to develop immunity by getting COVID-19 and recovering, rather than through vaccination.

As Infection Control Today® has reported, vaccine hesitancy among HCWs has been a nagging concern, and could be a hindrance to getting society in general to herd immunity. As Kevin Kavanagh, MD, a member of ICT®’s Editorial Advisory Board, put it recently: “It’s hard to convince a patient to become vaccinated when they were just escorted to the room with a nurse who did not have the vaccine.”

That point is made in the AJIC study, as well. Saying that while most HCWs are more willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 than, for instance, influenza, that’s not a particularly high bar to set. “On average, less than 50% of Canadian HCWs receive the influenza vaccine each year,” the study states.

Investigators said that COVID-19 vaccine promotion campaigns in health care settings might help alleviate hesitancy, especially if they include updated data on safety and efficacy. Also, peer support: Distribution of “I am vaccinated” buttons for HCWs to wear.

“HCWs are not only among the first to be vaccinated in most jurisdictions, but they are also role models for the general public, therefore their acceptance and recommendation may influence hesitant members of the general population to eventually accept vaccination,” the study states. “It is thus crucial that we address barriers to vaccine acceptance in this group. Our findings suggest that providing more information on the safety and efficacy of the new vaccines and promoting positive peer influence could be key in addressing the major concerns of the HCWs who hesitate to be vaccinated.”