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Nursing home workers say side effects primary reason for skipping coronavirus vaccine

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Posted at 8:45 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 22:45:59-05

A survey of nursing home workers in Indiana released last week indicates that concerns over side effects are the No. 1 reason why they would not opt to take the coronavirus vaccine.

The release of the survey comes as health officials in a number of states say that many nursing home employees have been declining getting the vaccine.

Last week, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine estimated that up to 60% of nursing home workers in his state were not taking the coronavirus vaccine. Like in most states, those living and working in nursing homes are among the first to be offered the vaccine.

The Indiana study, conducted by public health officials in addition to researchers from Indiana University, found that 45% of nursing home workers in the state would accept the vaccine when its first offered. Of those who said they wouldn’t accept the vaccine at first, 70% cited side effects as the primary reason for their declination.

Other health concerns, questions on the vaccines’ effectiveness and religious beliefs were other reasons given for not taking a vaccine.

In recent weeks, there have been a few reported cases of those receiving the vaccine having mild to moderate side effects. FDA officials said that it’s possible the reactions were from the vaccine’s active ingredient polyethylene glycol. According to government information, the ingredient can cause known side effects such as bloating, diarrhea, nausea, cramps, gas and hives.

As of Monday, more than 4.5 million Americans have received the first of two coronavirus vaccine doses.

There are some nursing home workers who suggested that they would be willing to take the vaccine at some point. Overall, 69% of those surveyed said they would be open to eventually taking the vaccine.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living has been working to promote vaccinations among its 14,000 member nursing homes.

“Vaccination is the best tool we have had in the ongoing fight against this historic threat,” said Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. “The faster we get people vaccinated, the more lives we can save. We believe this educational effort will help our residents and staff make informed decisions that will safeguard not only their own health, but also the communities where they live and work.”

“While delivery of a vaccine is an important milestone, it will only work if people take it,” added Parkinson. “By working with our members to provide staff, residents, and family members with the facts and information they need, we can hopefully begin to put this threat behind us. In the meantime, we must remain vigilant and continue to rally around our heroic caregivers and vulnerable residents.”

CVS and Walgreens have been tasked with administering the vaccine to those living and working inside more than 70,000 US nursing homes.

A CVS spokesperson said that its employees are prepared to speak to the importance of getting vaccinated to those apprehensive about getting the vaccine. Walgreens is also working toward educating those skeptical of taking the vaccine.

"We are delivering vaccine education through several means, including providing content, videos and materials in multiple languages, and collaborating with local community leaders and organizations to share information. We are producing content daily, and even hourly sometimes, to ensure our customers have the latest information at their fingertips," a Walgreens spokesperson said.

"We’re also providing vaccine recipients with the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Fact Sheet, which details risks and benefits of the specific vaccine they are receiving, including side effects as well as additional safety monitoring resources from the CDC," the spokesperson added.

The authors wrote in the survey study that education was important in getting more nursing home workers vaccinated.

"Although anyone working in a long term care facility could transmit the virus to residents, nurse aides and nurses have the most direct, hands-on contact with residents. Nurse aides bathe, dress, feed residents and thus have frequent, prolonged interactions necessary to provide this personal care," the authors wrote in the study. "It is of concern, thus, that direct care clinical staff were less likely to report willingness to receive the vaccine in the first wave. Investment in tailored educational materials and outreach to this population is critical so that vaccination efforts can achieve the goal of protecting residents."