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New survey: 15% of U.S. healthcare workers refuse to take COVID vaccine

A troubling number of healthcare workers — 15 percent — who have been offered an approved COVID-19 vaccine refuse to take it, according to the first comprehensive vaccine hesitancy survey of healthcare workers in the United States, which we released today.

The 2,504 respondents to our survey, which was administered December 17–30, 2020, consisted of three groups: “Healthcare Professionals” (i.e., physicians, nurses, dentists); “Allied Health Professionals” (i.e., health technicians, EMS personnel, physician therapists, home health workers); and “Health Management and Support Personnel” (i.e., administrative staff, operations staff).

According to U.S. Healthcare Workers: COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake and Attitudes”, 15% of healthcare workers offered the vaccine refuse to take it. The most common reason cited for their reluctance was a lack of evidence of the vaccines’ effectiveness and safety (31% cited this as the primary reason); personal safety concerns (24%); and worrying that the vaccine approval process has been rushed (16%):

Of the 2,504 healthcare professionals who responded, 53% had been offered at least one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines at the time they took the survey. Among that group, we found:

  • 20% had already taken their first dose of the vaccine
  • 18% had not yet taken their first dose of the vaccine but planned to do so
  • 15% said they would refuse to take the vaccine

Looking deeper at the 15% by occupational group, race, and political affiliation, we found:

  • When breaking down respondents in this group by the three occupational groups, the refusal rate was highest for Allied Health Professionals (22% refused), followed by Healthcare Professionals (13%), and Health Management and Support Personnel (10%).
  • When breaking down respondents in this group by race, Black healthcare workers had the largest refusal rate by far (35% refused), followed by White healthcare workers (14% refused), Latinx healthcare workers (13% refused) and other minority healthcare workers (12% refused). Black healthcare workers also showed a higher level of mistrust in the vaccine rollout process and were more likely to hold the belief that the healthcare system doesn’t treat them fairly.
  • When breaking down respondents in this group by political affiliation, the refusal rate was highest for Republicans (18% refused), followed by Independents (16% refused) and lowest for Democrats (8% refused).

In addition, healthcare workers in long-term care facilities report more hesitancy about getting the COVID-19 vaccine than those in hospitals do. Healthcare workers at long-term care facilities rated themselves as less likely to get the vaccine (with an average intention score of 7.5 out of 10) than workers in hospitals (8.1 out of 10). And while 41% of long-term care facility workers believed that only “some” or “a few” of their colleagues would get vaccinated, only 25% of hospital workers responded similarly.

The survey also showed that healthcare workers in smaller settings are being offered the vaccine at lower rates than those in larger settings. In organizations with 50 or fewer employees, an average of only 29% of healthcare workers had been offered the vaccine at the time they took the survey, compared to an average of 68% of healthcare workers in organizations with at least 1000 employees. This also translates to fewer employees who had actually received their first vaccine dose: only 8% of respondents from smaller organizations had been vaccinated at the time they took the survey, compared to around 27% of respondents who worked for organizations with at least 1000 employees.

These findings show us the importance of building vaccine confidence among our healthcare workforce, especially in these early days. Every one of our healthcare workers must set the right example, we still have so much work to do to convince the rest of the country to take the COVID vaccine.

Read the full results here: U.S. Healthcare Workers: COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake and Attitudes.

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