COVID-19 vaccine: Health care and frontline workers in America refusing vaccination

New Delhi: Even as India has given emergency use approval to Serum Institute’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin (Covaxin), a report coming in from the United States say that a startlingly high percentage of health care professionals and frontline workers throughout the country, who have prioritized as early receipts of the coronavirus vaccine, are hesitant or outright refusing to take it. 

A Forbes report citing a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that 29% of healthcare workers were hesitant to receive the vaccine, citing concerns related to potential side effects and a lack of faith in the government to ensure the vaccines were safe. 

Frontline workers in the United States are disproportionately Black and Hispanic, said the report, adding that the pandemic has taken an “outsized toll” on this segment of the population, which has reportedly accounted for roughly 65% of fatalities in cases in which there are race and ethnicity data. 

A study published by the journal The Lancet over the summer reportedly found “healthcare workers of color were more than twice as likely as their white counterparts” to test positive for the coronavirus. 

According to a Pew Research Center poll published in December, vaccine skepticism is highest among Black Americans, as less than 43% said they would definitely/probably get a Covid-19 vaccine. 

Dr Juvvadi told NPR that “there’s no transparency between pharmaceutical companies or research companies — or the government sometimes — on how many people from” Black and Latino communities were involved in the research of the vaccine. 

Dr Varon said that “the fact that [President] Trump is in charge of accelerating the process bothers” those individuals who refuse to be immunized, adding “they all think it’s meant to harm specific sectors of the population.” 

Citing an op-ed published in the New York Times earlier this week, the Forbes report said that emergency physicians Benjamin Thomas and Monique Smith wrote that “vaccine reluctance is a direct consequence of the medical system’s mistreatment of Black people” and past atrocities. 

Key facts given by the Forbes report are: 

1. Earlier this week, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said he was “troubled” by the relatively low numbers of nursing home workers who have elected to take the vaccine, with DeWine stating that approximately 60% of nursing home staff declined the shot. 

2. Dr Joseph Varon, chief of critical care at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center, told NPR in December that more than half of the nurses in his unit informed him they would not get the vaccine.

3. Roughly 55 percent of surveyed New York Fire Department firefighters reportedly said that they would not get the coronavirus vaccine, the Firefighters Association president said last month.

4. It also cited The Los Angeles Times report Thursday that said hospital and public officials in Riverside, California, have been forced to figure out how best to allocate unused doses after an estimated 50% of frontline workers in the county refused the vaccine.

5. Fewer than half of the hospital workers at St Elizabeth Community Hospital in Tehama County, California, were willing to be vaccinated, and around 20% to 40% of LA County’s frontline workers have reportedly declined an opportunity to take the vaccine, the report added. 

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) under Directorate General of Health Services has approved two COVID-19 vaccines so far, including the indigenous vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech and ICMR, which has been named Covaxin, and other one manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII), Covishield.

Notably, several states have conducted dry runs in preparation for the massive inoculation drive on Saturday. 

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