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Health care workers in WNC try to convince their own to get COVID-19 vaccine

Health care workers try to convince their own to get COVID-19 vaccine
Hospital officials in the mountains said only a little more than half of their employees are choosing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

As health care leaders push for people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, they are dealing with a concerning trend. Hospital officials in the mountains said only a little more than half of their employees are choosing to get vaccinated.

Mission Health estimates 53% of its staff who have had the chance to get the vaccine have taken it. At AdventHealth, that number sits at 57%.

“It’s pretty much in line with national data,” AdventHealth Chief Medical Officer Dr. Teresa Herbert said.

Herbert said a breakdown of the total percentage showed about 90% of doctors at AdventHealth are getting the shot compared to about 50% of nurses, depending on the areas in which they work.

Mission Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Hathaway said the system is also seeing a majority of doctors getting the shot. He said workers caring for COVID-19 patients also have a high vaccination rate.

“They’ve seen the devastating effect. The farther away you get from caring for the COVID patients and see the impact on them, it is slightly lower,” he said.

Herbert said it is frustrating that portions of the Mission staff has been resistant to getting the vaccine.

"That does concern me," he said.

However, Hathaway said now is not the time to make the vaccine mandatory since it’s still under emergency-use authorization.

“Once it’s under biology license application, just like the flu shot, and we know and appreciate the safety and we know that doing so benefits society greatly, then we may do that for our health care workers. But we haven’t discussed that yet,” he said.

Herbert said older employees are more likely to get the vaccine because of the higher risk they have for COVID-19. She said there is also racial hesitancy with the vaccine. She’s been doing calls three times a week with her staff to answer questions.

“Since I’ve been doing those calls, there’s been a 10 percent increase in vaccine uptake,” Herbert said. “Education, understanding, patience, kindness is really important. No one wants to feel badgered into getting a shot.”

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Herbert said chief medical officers have a call together each week planning campaigns to educate the community about the vaccine.

Health care leaders said getting people to take the vaccine is critical.

“More is better than some, and some is better than none. But, I think that in this point in time we know that once we hit a very high level of vaccination, we can almost eliminate the disease,” Hathaway said.

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