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Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.
December 16, 2021
2 min read

15% of health care workers were hesitant to receive COVID-19 vaccine, survey finds

Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.
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About three in 20 health care workers reported vaccine hesitancy during the initial rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, according to survey results published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Moreover, 99% of physicians reported intentions to get vaccinated compared with 82% of nurses.

External factors that swayed health care workers toward COVID-19 vaccination.
Toth-Manikowski SM, et al. Am J Infect Control. 2021;doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2021.10.004.

The fact that “vaccine hesitancy is higher in nurses than physicians may be related to lower focus on evaluation and interpretation of research studies during nursing school compared to medical school and fewer opportunities for nursing staff to participate in comprehensive analyses of research articles evaluating COVID-19 vaccine efficacy and safety compared to physicians,” Gina Piscitello, MD, an assistant professor of internal medicine at Rush Medical College, told Healio Primary Care.

“These factors likely contribute to some nurses and other health care workers perceiving there is insufficient evidence supporting COVID-19 vaccine efficacy, which is a perspective that could contribute to patient harm if inaccuracies about safety and efficacy data of COVID-19 vaccines are shared with patients,” she continued. 

For the cross-sectional study, Piscitello and colleagues electronically surveyed 1,974 health care workers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Rush University Medical Center and Advocate Aurora Health. The survey was conducted between March and May during the Pfizer vaccine rollout. Respondents provided information about their demographics; perceived susceptibility, severity, barriers and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination; and factors that would affect their decision to get vaccinated.

Overall, 15% of respondents declined or anticipated declining the vaccine, according to Piscitello and colleagues. About 47% of respondents who were or intended to be vaccinated reported having a family member with a chronic illness compared with 40.1% of those against vaccination (P < .001).

Vaccinated respondents were more likely to believe that vaccination would decrease the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (OR = 41.59; 95% CI, 29.91-57.85) and decrease the likelihood of infection in themselves (OR = 28.22; 95% CI, 20.69-38.48), their patients (OR = 22.45; 95% CI, 16.50-30.56) and their family members (OR = 27.19; 95% CI, 19.97-37.03) compared with unvaccinated respondents. Vaccinated respondents were also more likely to be swayed toward getting vaccinated based on external stimuli, such as the media (OR = 1.83; 95% CI, 1.25- 2.66), a personal health care provider (OR = 4.77; 95% CI, 3.50-6.51), friends and family (OR = 18.83; 95% CI, 13.94-25.59), colleagues (OR = 8.24; 95% CI, 6.29-10.79) or supervisors (OR = 5.52; 95% CI, 4.25-7.18).

Unvaccinated respondents were 93% more likely to believe there was insufficient evidence to support the COVID-19 vaccine (OR = 0.07; 95% CI, 0.05- 0.09), which the researchers said was “surprising” given the respondents’ occupations. Piscitello and colleagues further noted that workers who did not receive the vaccine were more likely to be younger, non-physicians, Black or had concerns surrounding adverse events affecting their own bodies or a fetus or newborn.

“Increasing education for health care workers on how to evaluate research studies and improving opportunities for open and safe discussion of COVID-19 vaccine data may reduce vaccine hesitancy” among those groups, Piscitello said.

The researchers advised hospitals to “work internally to foster relationships and trust building among employees across departments and job roles, especially among nurses and physicians who remain highly trusted in their communities,” instead of focusing on media outreach.


New study looks at vaccine hesitancy among workers in health care. Published Dec. 6, 2021. Accessed Dec. 10, 2021.

Toth-Manikowski SM, et al. Am J Infect Control. 2021;doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2021.10.004.