Every Picture Tells a Story: Healthcare Workers & Vaccine Hesitancy

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You would think that healthcare workers, those in “the business,” would be jumping at getting a COVID-19 vaccine – you would be wrong. Here are a few of the facts.

Certainly, healthcare workers, and that includes physicians, nurses, all the clinical support staff, and all the infrastructure staff (yes, including administrators), are working in higher-risk conditions. What with personal protective equipment and other standard measures, the risk, while increased, is smallish. Most of those with infections attributed to work, which is itself not so clear, are more frequently nurse’s aides and housekeeping staff rather than frontline physicians and nurses. 

Here are the results of a survey done before the initial approval of any vaccines. It involves roughly 16,000 employees, 735 female, 89% Caucasian, mean age 43. 55% said they would get the vaccine, and those percentages improved over the month. 

A closer look at the naysayers revealed their concerns.

Primarily a fear of the unknown leading to a wait and see approach. Those initial individuals willing to be vaccinated may have been “fibbing” to the survey or themselves, as a more recent poll, done in late February through March, by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Washington Post show. First of all, only 52% of healthcare workers have had at least one vaccine shot – and they have been eligible for vaccination since day 1, a long time to procrastinate and far closer to the original finding in the JAMA study. The reasons to hesitate have not changed.


Wait and see, lack of trust, anxiety about the side effect, all reasonable concerns, but with so few adverse reactions, what are we waiting to see? Trust, of course, is easily broken and hard to earn. Here is the bottom line from the KFF-Washington Post survey.

12% are undecided. That 18% with plans, you have to wonder whether that hides continued hesitancy while providing the surveyors with the answer society expects. The 18% who don’t plan on being vaccinated are pretty well dug in. When asked what they would do if their employer mandated vaccination, 66% said they would quit. 


Sources: Trends in Health CareWorker Intentions to Receive a COVID-19 Vaccine and Reasons for Hesitancy JAMA Network Open DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.5344

More than 4 in 10 healthcare workers have not been vaccinated, Post-KFF poll finds Washington Post