Health Team

Vaccine uptake slow among some health care workers, surveys find

Posted January 13, 2021 6:35 p.m. EST
Updated January 13, 2021 6:57 p.m. EST

Across the state, more than 200,000 North Carolinians have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Still, the roll out has been slower than planned. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows about 31 percent of the vaccines distributed to North Carolina have been used.

State officials note have commented that some people offered the vaccine first, those in phase 1A, have been reluctant to get the series.

"We are particularly concerned about people turning down the vaccine who are staffing our long term health care facilities," said Gov. Roy Cooper during a regular press briefing.

Nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals were given priority due to the fact they're high-risk, often interacting with COVID-19 patients. Despite being prioritized, some are opting out of getting it. According to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost three out of every 10 people who work in a health care setting said they definitely or probably would not get the vaccine.

That rate is similar to the national average where about a quarter of the general public reported they remain hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to that survey.

As most North Carolina counties move into phase 1B and people 75 years old and up can get vaccinated, WRAL worked to get answers about the uptake rate during the first phase.

"We are concerned," said Dr. Mandy Cohen, the DHHS secretary, echoing the governor's concerns. "We are seeing a higher rate of decline among our African American and Hispanic communities."

Requests to the state for specific data have gone unanswered.

Reaching out to local health systems, WRAL found anywhere between 50 and 70 percent of those eligible to get vaccinated in the first phase, chose to.

Around half of the employees at Cape Fear Valley Health opted out of getting vaccinated, a spokesperson said. That rate was lower at Duke where about 30 percent of those eligible weren't interested.

And at UNC, we weren't given an exact answer. Their spokesperson they say they've administered the vaccine to about 18,000 employees, which is 90 percent of those interested - so 20,000 who want to be inoculated. Last year the health system reported 33,000 employees total. We can conclude up to 40 percent of workers didn't voluntarily get the vaccine.

The reasons some are hesitant vary, though nearly 60 percent of those surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation cited possible side effects as the primary reason. Lack of trust in the government and concerns over how new the vaccine is among the other top responses.

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