Wrong signal for the population: Where does the vaccination skepticism among carers come from?

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Wrong signal for the population
Where does the vaccination skepticism come from among carers?

The vaccine is there, but some of the nursing staff are reluctant to do so. Experts fear a negative impact on the general public. Figures from the US are cause for concern.

The vaccines against the coronavirus were developed in record time – a huge success from the point of view of politicians and scientists. But when it comes to vaccination itself, the euphoria is limited, at least among parts of the population. Obviously there is also reluctance among medical staff, who are said to be among the first vaccinated. There are many reasons for this and there is not always a skepticism about vaccines behind them.

The willingness to vaccinate is very different among nursing staff, said Bernd Meurer, President of the Federal Association of Private Providers of Social Services (BPA). “We have facilities where almost 100 percent of employees get vaccinated. And that goes as far as two-thirds don’t get vaccinated.” At the moment it is difficult to paint a clear picture. It is not unusual for medical staff to react cautiously when it comes to vaccinations. According to the Robert Koch Institute, only a good 79 percent of doctors and just under 47 percent of nurses have recently had themselves vaccinated against the flu.

In December around 73 percent of doctors and almost 50 percent of nurses in Germany wanted to be vaccinated against Corona. This was the result of a survey by the German Society for Internal Intensive Care Medicine and Emergency Medicine and the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (Divi), the results of which were reported by the “Deutsches Ärzteblatt”. A spokeswoman for Divi said these numbers were long out of date. “We are of the opinion that a lot has happened since the vaccination started.”

Skepticism in the USA too

However, a look across the Atlantic suggests that restraint could remain: In the Texas city of Houston in the USA, a hospital promised its employees a bonus of 500 dollars – a prerequisite for this, however, was a vaccination against Corona. Medical workers in the United States are allowed to be vaccinated first. According to reports, around a quarter to a third of them – depending on the region – have so far refused the injection.

Authorities fear a bad signal effect on the waiting rest of the US population. Research Center Pew published a November survey that found 39 percent of the roughly 330 million Americans “probably” or “certainly” didn’t want to be vaccinated. However, this number has already been significantly worse and is likely to change the more people are successfully immunized. Nancy Messonier, the CDC’s immunization director, said Wednesday she was “concerned” about skepticism among medical staff. More educational work needs to be done about the safety of vaccinations.

The restrained numbers also make many people in Germany thoughtful, after all, doctors and nurses have a kind of role model character. The medical staff is demonstrably the most important point of contact for the vaccination decision, said the company doctor of the Frankfurt University Hospital, Sabine Wicker, who is also a member of the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko). “I always say, ‘Badly vaccinated doctors have badly vaccinated patients’ – because if the medical staff doesn’t see a vaccination indication for themselves, why should they recommend vaccination to the patients they care for?”

Long-term risks unlikely

The vaccines are showing great promise. Biontech / Pfizer states that its vaccine is 95 percent effective, and serious side effects are rare. The vaccine from the US manufacturer Moderna, which was approved on Wednesday, has a similar quota. Nothing is known about long-term risks so far, but the experts also consider them to be low. The risk of getting seriously ill with Corona, on the other hand, can be calculated solidly, said the chairman of Stiko, Thomas Mertens. “There are a lot of information gaps or incorrect information that is spread,” said Mertens. One should not assume that the previous knowledge of an mRNA vaccine among medical staff is on average so much better than in the rest of the population, according to Mertens.

There might also be unconscious psychological effects. Many people would not work under optimal conditions in hospitals anyway. And if an employer then also gives a vaccination recommendation, “that might trigger a certain backlash,” said Mertens. In addition, a vaccination against the virus does not bring any professional relief at the moment, said Bernd Meurer from the BPA. The carers would still have to wear an FFP2 mask even after immunization. One of the reasons is that it is not yet clear whether you can infect others with the coronavirus despite the vaccination. “We assume that the willingness to vaccinate would increase considerably if vaccinated people did not pose a risk of infection, which would make everyday work easier for the nursing staff after the vaccination.”

Spahn calls for clarification

Health Minister Jens Spahn appealed to employees on Wednesday to get vaccinated. Nursing staff and doctors should do this out of “responsibility for those who are cared for and treated,” said Spahn. Healthcare professionals therefore need to be educated. It is important to give doctors, pharmacists and other health care workers information and transparency.

According to Spahn, there is not yet an overview of the willingness to vaccinate in care facilities, elderly care and doctors at Corona. In some homes 80 percent, in others only 20 percent of the nurses got vaccinated, he heard. “At the moment this is not a final picture.” According to everything he hears, the willingness to vaccinate in hospitals is high among all those who see “what Covid-19 can do” in intensive care units.

Thomas Mertens is also confident about the willingness of the nursing staff to vaccinate. He believes people will consider getting vaccinated to support herd immunity. “I’m not so pessimistic about this just because of the current poll results.”

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