(NewsNation Now) — Despite being eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, some frontline workers are in no rush to get the shot. Many workers say it’s not necessarily an indefinite refusal, but more so that for an array of reasons they’re holding off on getting the vaccine right away.
Many medical experts have proclaimed the vaccine is our best bet to the end of the pandemic, yet many are hesitant about taking it.
Dr. Khalilah Gates, a pulmonologist at Northwestern Medicine, was initially one of them.
“I was with mixed emotions, but the alternative which is to get infected with COVID-19, and perhaps end up in the ICU that I work in, it wasn’t a good alternative for me, and so I decided to have the vaccine,” Gates said.
Gates is just one of a sizeable group of medical professionals who have some sort of reservations about getting the vaccine. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that around 29% of health workers have skepticism about the shot.
Quincy Stanley, the vice president of hospital operations at Rush University Medical Center, says many of his staff members, who are skeptical, feel that way due to misconceptions about the vaccines now avilable.
“There’s a combination of things. One is the wait-and-see game; I want to wait to see what happens to everyone else, this is a new vaccine, I’m not sure if it’s still in experimental phases or not,” Stanley explained.
The other, the long history of medical experimentation in Black and brown communities. In 1932, 600 Black men in Alabama were recruited by the government on a promise of free medical care, in what is know as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. Many were sharecroppers who never visited a doctor.
“That’s where we’ve kind of seen the largest gap,” Stanley said.
Still, public health experts say this creates a larger issue where a group of those working in the medical field are doubting the very science they want the general public to believe in.
“A lot of these health care workers come from their communities and they’re talking about the vaccine. what they think it will do to them, what they think the reactions will be,” Stanley said.
Stanley is working with Rush Medical Center to help employees feel more comfortable about getting vaccinated. He says about 85% of his more than 10,000 staff members are now vaccinated, showing that the effects they’re putting forth is successfully moving the needle.
Dr. Gates says getting skeptical frontline workers on board is an uphill battle, but one she’s proof it can be done.
“There are lots of legalities and regulatory rules in place now for clinical studies to try to prevent that but the reality is that it’s a history that still nags us and we have to accept that and work within that,” Gates said.