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Compliance, refusal or wait and see: About 30% of health care workers vaccinated so far
Andy Cason.jpg
Andy Cason, a respiratory therapist at Gainesville's Northeast Georgia Medical Center, pulls up his sleeve Thursday, Dec. 17 at the hospital. - photo by Nick Watson

The Department of Public Health says health departments and some hospitals in Georgia are reporting roughly 30% of health care workers have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

DPH spokeswoman Nancy Nydam wrote in an email Thursday, Feb. 4, that these rates are on par with some reports around the country.

“What we have heard from some of our health departments and some hospitals in Georgia is that vaccination rates are around 30% among health care workers. … Health care workers are either getting vaccinated, others are in a wait and see mode, and still others say they won’t be vaccinated regardless,” Nydam wrote in an email. “Many of the concerns are around the process for getting vaccines (emergency use authorizations) so quickly, and others are a general distrust of vaccines.”

As of Friday, Feb. 5, there have been 5,400 first doses of the COVID vaccine administered to Northeast Georgia Health System employees and 4,069 second doses.

The health system has roughly 10,000 employees.

“The strongest participation is from the clinical areas of our hospitals, where we’re seeing vaccination rates between 70-100%,” said Luisa Gutman, NGHS chief human resources officer in a statement. “The biggest challenge has been vaccinating our workforce in more rural parts of our region.”

District 2 Public Health spokesman Dave Palmer said the agency is not collecting data on medical staff opting out of getting the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted a report Feb. 1, detailing the vaccination coverage for skilled nursing facilities participating in the private-public partnership with CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens.

According to the report, an estimated median of 77.8% of residents and 37.5% of staff members received at least one dose of the vaccine through the first month of the pharmacy partnership.

According to the report, the program had “moderately high coverage among residents.”

“However, continued development and implementation of focused communication and outreach strategies are needed to improve vaccination coverage among staff members in (skilled nursing facilities) and other long-term care settings,” according to the report.

The report said these findings gathered may have been limited because of scheduling issues for staff members as well as other factors, and “no qualitative data were collected to determine motivators for vaccination or to document and characterize possible vaccine hesitancy suggested by the low percentage of staff members vaccinated.”

Gutman said they are currently surveying employees to “get a better estimate of those who haven’t been able to coordinate a time to get the vaccine between shifts, compared to those who simply don’t plan to get a shot.”

“We have employee vaccination clinics currently scheduled daily through mid-February, so it may be a few weeks before we have a true sense of where we are,” Gutman said.

Nydam said the Department of Public Health is working with health care associations and hospitals to “provide the science, research and testing of the vaccines” which have also been shared with the general public.

“We have asked that health care workers who have been vaccinated to be used in their facilities as influencers to encourage their co-workers to get vaccinated,” Nydam said.

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