Some health care workers are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and it would be beneficial to address their concerns to benefit the community, according to a study led by Corewell Health East, the new name for Beaumont Health, of nearly 5,000 health care employees.
The study, conducted with the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, was published most recently Sept. 8 in Public Health Reports, the official journal of the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service. The initial study results were published March 12, 2022, in the Journal of Community Health.
“Health care providers influence others in their respective communities and are crucial in the promotion of vaccine acceptance by patients and their families, as well as the providers’ families and friends,” said Corewell Health infectious diseases specialist Dr. Trini Mathew, who worked with the study’s lead author, Oakland University’s Dr. Lindsay Oberleitner, PhD, and others from Corewell Health and Oakland University. “It is crucial and insightful to understand the COVID-19 vaccine behaviors and attitudes of health care providers – and how they make those choices.”
The most prevalent reasons for acceptance of vaccination were:
- safety of loved ones (78.4%)
- personal health and safety (77.1%)
- health and safety of the community (72.2%)
“Even if health care workers had a personal concern, many got vaccinated out of a sense of caring for others,” said Dr. Mathew, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control for Corewell Health Taylor Hospital. To increase vaccination rates among hesitant health care workers, the benefits of vaccination should be promoted rather than using scare tactics or focusing on concerns, the researchers concluded.
When the health care workers were questioned about vaccine confidence, the most prevalent concerns for vaccination were:
- unknown long-term effects (59.2%)
- vaccine ineffective for variants (38.0%)
- unsure of effectiveness (37.1%)
- belief the vaccines were developed too quickly (36.3%)
The researchers received insight from 4,603 health care employees at Corewell Health East, or 12.2% of nearly 38,000 workers at the eight-hospital health system who received the online survey April 9, 2021, during the third COVID-19 surge in southeast Michigan. The health care workers had one month to respond, and answers were kept anonymous.
About 86% of the responding health care employees reported they were vaccinated or scheduled to be vaccinated. Of the 12.4% who reported they were unvaccinated, 8.8% responded they were not planning for vaccination, and 3.6% said they were never open to vaccination.
To gain insight into why health care workers might hesitate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the survey looked at various deciding factors: whether the health care worker believed vaccines were necessary, access, and their assessment of risk vs. benefit and confidence in the vaccine. The study was the first to track reasons for vaccination after COVID-19 vaccines were available.
Access was a critical issue, according to the study. Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel were the staff most likely to have problems accessing vaccines, due to time or location constraints, according to the study.
“The vaccine clinics at that time were only being held at one centralized hospital location and at county health departments,” said Dr. Mathew. “We know now that increasing the number of locations to make vaccination more convenient for everyone improves vaccination rates.”
The study also found health care workers who worked with COVID-19 patients and those who had experienced COVID themselves were more likely to believe vaccines were unnecessary. If others around them were vaccinated, some felt little need to be vaccinated themselves.
The study also found non-white health care workers were less likely to support vaccination, due to many contributing factors. COVID-19 disproportionately affected minority groups, particularly people who are Black and African American, due to increased vulnerability to chronic illness, a high number working in service jobs and inadequate access to health resources, researchers said.
“This population has also been subject to historical and ongoing forms of health care injustice, in Michigan in particular,” the researchers wrote. “(They) have disproportionately been harmed by COVID-19 infection and have been least helped by society.
“When dominant social groups fail to respect and care for members of disadvantaged social groups —but instead leave them to face burdens and injustices on their own — it can be reasonable for members of disadvantaged groups to be skeptical about subsequent appeals for ‘solidarity’ and ‘social responsibility.’”
Others who worked on the study include former Corewell Health’s former Marketing director, Lawrence Wu, Insights & Analytics manager Melissa Ozdych and former senior vice president and Chief Information Officer Hans Keil, as well as Oakland University’s Victoria Lucia, PhD.; Mark Christopher Navin, Ph.D.; Dr. Nelia Afonso and Richard Kennedy, Ph.D.