Virginia officials hoped all healthcare workers would want a vaccine, but that hasn't happened

Posted at 6:43 PM, Jan 12, 2021

NORFOLK, Va. - When vaccines rolled out in Virginia for the first time in December, healthcare workers were put in the front of the line, but not all of them lined up.

"We initially allocated [the] vaccine hoping 100% of healthcare workers would want to get vaccinated. That's not been the case," said Dr. Danny Avula, who's overseeing vaccination efforts in the Commonwealth for the Virginia Department of Health.

It appears some were hesitant at first. Dr. Avula says health systems he's talked with report about 50 to 60% of their workers wanted a vaccine at first, but after about a month of vaccines, attitudes appear to be changing. "Some of the folks who were waiting and seeing have seen the first wave go through, and in some cases get the second dose, and now they're signing up to be vaccinated," he said.

The feelings here aren't unique. A survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found 29% of healthcare workers expressed hesitation about getting a vaccine.

As for whether that's happening here locally, Bon Secours told News 3 they've seen strong interest among employees in getting vaccinated. Sentara says 38-percent of staffers have gotten the first dose of the vaccine. They say 10-percent has gotten the second dose.

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported more than 100,000 doses of vaccine have been administered at Virginia hospitals. A spokesman for VHHA says any skepticism to a vaccine isn't specific to a profession; it's across the board. A survey done last year found about 40% of people in Virginia weren't sure they'd get one.

Still,some healthcare workers who have gotten them want to reassure the public. Dr. Edward Oldfield from Eastern Virginia Medical School hasn't had any issues, but wants to stress caution is still necessary. "I'll still continue to wear my mask and social distance, but I'll certainly feel a lot better having had it," he said.

Health officials say if healthcare workers or others don't want vaccines, then the process will move along. "We're not going to wait for people to sort of get comfortable with it or change their minds. We will open as soon as we can to the next tier," said Avula.

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