Inland Empire

Some Health Care Workers Decline to Get COVID-19 Vaccine. But Why?

According to health experts, vaccine hesitancy isn't just an issue in Riverside County.

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Frontline healthcare workers are the first in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine but some in the Inland Empire are declining it.

Health officials in Riverside County said about half of the workers at their 17 acute care hospitals have said no to the vaccine.

The question is: why?

In mid-December, frontline healthcare workers were the first in line in Riverside County to get the COVID-19 vaccination. County officials say many of them chose to get it, and many others did not.

Facilities already overwhelmed by coronavirus cases are preparing for even more patients in the wake of holiday travel.

"We also noticed that about half of our healthcare workers at our acute care hospitals were declining to take it at the initial time," said Riverside County spokesperson Brooke Federico.

Federico said frontline health care workers cannot be forced to get the vaccine.

But she also says the vaccines are not going to waste. Instead they are being given to the next in line, like firefighters, paramedics and EMTs.

"And that was sooner than we anticipated we would be able to offer to those groups," Federico said.

According to health experts, vaccine hesitancy isn't just an issue in Riverside County.

"To be really clear, healthcare workers were interested in getting this vaccine in general but many of them just wanted to wait for more information," UCLA epidemiology professor Anne Rimoin said.

Since September, Rimoin has been conducting surveys about vaccine hesitancy.
She says initially, about 66% of healthcare workers didn't want to be the first to get the COVID-19 vaccination for several reasons.

"Politicization of the process, lack of information about the vaccine and concern about the side effects," Rimoin said.

But in a recent survey, Rimoin said the number had actually flipped after the election and after the FDA released more information about the safety of the vaccines.

"Sixty six percent of healthcare workers were wanting to get the vaccine as soon as possible," Rimoin said.

Rimoin said communication is the key for more healthcare workers to feel comfortable about getting vaccinated.

How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart

This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 50th case.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

"We need to make sure these people have the information and if they have questions their questions are answered," Rimoin said.

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