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EMERGENCY CARE

A third of hospital workers in the US are still unvaccinated

A covid-19 sign in a hospital
Reuters/Kacper Pempel
Not everyone is safe
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter

Published

Nearly a third of hospital-based healthcare workers around the country haven’t been vaccinated against covid-19, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

The analysis, published on Nov. 17 in the American Journal of Infection Control, looked at data for 3.3 million hospital-based healthcare workers—anyone who works in healthcare facilities who has the potential for contact for patients—for whom data on vaccination status was available. The rate of vaccination as of Sept. 15 ranged from 63% to 77% depending on the type of facility.

Hospitals near or in cities with less than 50,000 people had the lowest vaccination rates (63%), while those in larger metropolitan areas had the highest (71%). Rural hospitals had vaccination rates of 65%. This is despite the fact that at least 40% of hospitals have issued covid-19 vaccine requirements for their staff.

The prevalence of vaccination didn’t seem to match the risk of patients in hospitals whose residents were more likely to contract covid-19. In fact, children’s hospitals were the facilities with the highest rates of vaccination, even though children are at a lower risk of covid-19.

Critical access hospitals have the lowest vaccination rates

Vaccination rates were the lowest among healthcare workers in critical access hospitals, which are rural hospitals supported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid that operate in areas that would otherwise not have access to healthcare. More than one in three of the workers of those facilities didn’t get a covid-19 vaccine, followed by workers at long-term acute care hospitals, where less than 69% of the staff is vaccinated.

Vaccination rates are stagnant

Looking at the vaccination data since Jan. 15, researchers found that progress plateaued after a rapid increase in the early months of vaccination. By April, more than 60% of healthcare staff in hospitals had been vaccinated, with rates increasing only marginally in the remaining months. This suggests that those who aren’t vaccinated are unlikely to get a shot, unless it’s because of mandates imposed by federal or local authorities.

The data on covid-19 vaccinations in healthcare is limited

The analysis also shows the need for better data collection on vaccination status among healthcare workers.

The analysis had to exclude data from a majority of hospitals which either wouldn’t report the data on their personnel vaccination status, or do so in an incomplete way that didn’t allow for it to be included in the analysis. Out of more 5,000 facilities that are part of the Health and Human Services data collection, less than 2,500 (48%) reported data on covid-19 vaccination among healthcare practitioners, and among them, only a few more than 2,000 had comprehensive data. 

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