While COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out across the nation, not all health care workers are getting them. In fact, many workers at Ohio’s long-term care facilities are declining to take the vaccine.
Pete Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, said vaccination numbers are not what they expected for assisted living facilities. At varying locations, he said anywhere from 30% to 100% of staff are taking the vaccine.
"Things like, ‘it's new’ or ‘it happened very quickly, Operation Warp Speed, has it really been tested out,’" are among the reasons Runkle has heard why some health care workers declined to take the vaccine.
Dr. Janee Bey at TriHealth also said she's heard many reasons for people not wanting to get it.
"I've heard people say that they're afraid that this is a genetic vaccine and it's going to incorporate into their DNA and become a problem in the future,” Bey said. “That is not the case."
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also addressed these fears at his Tuesday press briefing, saying that the vast majority of workers and residents are choosing to take the vaccine.
Ursel McElroy, who leads the Ohio Department of Aging, said during DeWine's press conference that many workers have expressed anxiety about possible side effects, the speed at which the vaccine was developed and the fear of contracting COVID-19 from the injection.
While some mild side effects have been observed, it is not possible to get COVID-19 from the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Dr. Stephen Blatt, of TriHealth's infectious disease department, adds that coronavirus "is much worse" than any side effects that may come from a vaccine.
"I can understand why some people including healthcare workers are somewhat hesitant about the vaccine. It’s a new vaccine. It’s just been FDA approved by emergency use authorization," Blatt said, adding that the vaccine "looks to be very safe."
In response, McElroy’s department has embarked on a campaign to compassionately answer questions and educate staff with misinformed beliefs about COVID-19 and the vaccine.
“We hope that these discussions will get the workforce the confidence to get the vaccine,” she said.
According to the Ohio Health Care Association, the percentage of long term care residents getting vaccinated is much higher: anywhere from 85 to 95% of residents say they want the vaccine.