30% of health care workers in US hospitals are not vaccinated

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New Study Explores Vaccination Rate Among U.S. Health Workers Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images
  • Vaccination rates among health professionals at 2,000 hospitals in the United States rose from 36% to 60% between January and April 2021.
  • Thereafter, rates dropped significantly, with only 70% of staff fully vaccinated as of September 2021.
  • Healthcare workers who work in children’s hospitals and metropolitan areas have the highest vaccination coverage.

After the initial spike of COVID-19 vaccine uptake among healthcare professionals (HCP) in the U.S. hospital system in early 2021, rates declined rapidly in the second half of the year. Currently, as many as 30% of healthcare providers are not vaccinated.

Data Analysis from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Unified Hospital Data Surveillance System from January to September 2021, collected from more than 3.3 million health care providers in 2,086 hospitals, it was found that as many as 30% of workers had not been vaccinated.

A recent study in the American Journal of Infection Control examines self-reported data on vaccination status by hospital type and location. Hannah Reses, MPH, an epidemiologist in the division of health care quality promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), led the research team.

Their analysis included pediatric hospitals, short-term and long-term acute care (ACH) hospitals, and critical access hospitals. The study did not include psychiatric, rehabilitation, and religious non-medical facilities.

The data was then stratified by county type and whether the hospitals were located in metropolitan or rural areas.

HCPs working in pediatric hospitals had the highest vaccination rate at 77%, followed by short-term and long-term ACHs at 70.1% and 68.8%, respectively. Critical access hospitals had a 64% vaccination rate.

Hospitals in metropolitan counties had the highest vaccination rate of 71% for HCP, followed by rural counties (65.1%) and non-metropolitan rural counties (63.3%).

Individual vaccination rates among healthcare professionals also varied according to the COVID-19 hospital admissions at their workplace and vaccination coverage in their municipalities.

HCP were 14% more likely to be fully vaccinated if they worked in hospitals in the lowest percentile of COVID-19 admissions. They were also 10% more likely to be fully vaccinated in counties with the lowest cumulative cases of COVID-19.

On the other hand, they were 32% less likely to be fully vaccinated in counties with lower community vaccination rates.

Following the initial introduction of COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020, there was an absolute increase of 24% in healthcare professional admissions in the hospitals studied. From January to April 2021, rates went up from 36% to 60%. From April to August, however, the researchers saw only a 5% increase.

Notably, there was an additional 5% increase in vaccination rates from August to September 2021, which may reflect the recent rise in cases involving the Delta variant or vaccine mandates in certain areas. Despite this, the overall vaccination rate under HCP remains at only 70%.

While the researchers did not delve into the reasons individual health care providers remain unvaccinated, they echoed previous research citing several factors. Reses set out to Medical news today the four main concerns:

  • “COVID-19 vaccine efficacy
  • side effects after vaccination
  • the speed of vaccine development
  • lack of trust in regulators and the government”

Because of the higher risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmission within hospitals — especially the newer Delta variant — experts continue to explore measures to increase uptake.

Speak with MNT, Reses cited “vaccine mandates and investment in educational and promotional activities” as an effective means of achieving this goal.

The study also notes that vaccinated health care providers can help influence other health care providers and communities to get the vaccine. They would rather recommend it to patients, friends and family.

The researchers found that reluctant health care providers trusted the recommendations of medical professionals more than they did in regulatory agencies or the government. This collegial approach can improve compliance and remove misinformation.

dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, also spoke to MNT.

“Actually, we were not at all surprised by the 70% vaccination rate under HCP in this study. The initial increase in intake followed by the decrease is exactly the same as what happened when the flu vaccines were introduced. […] In other words, the early accepters are the ones who come out first. But not everyone is so enthusiastic. That includes doctors. After all, HCPs are people.”

dr. Schaffner then described the resolutions Vanderbilt had taken to overcome the stalled acceptance. This included vaccine mandates and intensive education with a strong focus on diversity inclusion.

He emphasized several points:

“There is no perfect vaccine that is risk-free. Yet the safety standard for any vaccine is already much higher than for drugs that get FDA [Food and Drink Administration] approval. And risk must always be placed in context. Yes, COVID-19 vaccines have a small heart and clotting risk in the range of 3 to 5 per 1 million, but in light of a pandemic that caused more than 2,000 deaths worldwide every day, there is almost no comparison. ”

Given the timeline of the dataset, this study was unable to account for the Pfizer vaccine approval in August 2021.

According to dr. Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine and associate chief in the division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, having an FDA-approved drug solves one of four concerns related to vaccine hesitancy .

She said MNT: “The Pfizer vaccine was complete” approved by the FDA on August 23, and this analysis did not continue until September 15, 2021. It is easier to mandate a vaccine once it is fully approved, so mandates may have come into effect in some health systems after that approval.”

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