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Why Are So Many Healthcare Workers Unvaccinated?

Vaccine mandates are being put in place for workers at hospitals across the country, but some healthcare workers remain hesitant to get the shots.
Vaccine mandates are being put in place for workers at hospitals across the country, but some healthcare workers remain hesitant to get the shots.

Late last year, healthcare workers were among the first to have access to COVID-19 vaccines. Many quickly signed up for their shots, but some did not. Ten months later, a substantial number of healthcare workers across the country remain unvaccinated, by choice.

At the end of May, long after vaccines were readily available to them, one in four hospital workers who have direct patient contact had not yet received a single dose. Among healthcare workers, those with the most years of higher education are most likely to be vaccinated. A study from Carnegie Mellon University found that 9 percent of physicians said they were hesitant to be vaccinated, while 20 to 23 percent of nursing aides and emergency medical technicians said they were.

Vaccination rates for healthcare workers also reflect where they work. In Alabama, which has a low vaccination rate statewide, around 50 to 60 percent of hospital workers are currently vaccinated. That means workers are more likely to get sick and be unable to work, which could cause staffing shortages. Hesitancy among medical workers also fuels the larger anti-vax movement, as many look to healthcare workers as professionals whose advice they should trust.

Hospitals nationwide are responding in recent weeks and months by implementing vaccine mandates for their workers. Nearly 1,500 health systems nationwide have now taken that step. The mandates have elicited protests and pushback from some.

Why are so many healthcare workers hesitant to get vaccinated? What does their resistance mean both inside the hospital and out? And how will vaccine mandates for healthcare workers be rolled out?

 

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