Vaccines divide workers, even among medical community and families

It is a tale of two sisters, but also a tale of two opposing communities — the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. ProPublica reporter Jenny Deam, along with writers Ryan Gabrielson and Bianca Fortis wrote a story of a pair of siblings who both worked as nurses. One received the COVID-19 vaccine, the other refused.

Deam joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss this story that highlighted a shocking statistic: Roughly 40 percent of care workers in nursing homes and other long term care facilities remain unvaccinated.

Deam discussed why these workers have refused to get the vaccine, the increasing prevalence of employer mandates to get vaccinated and how the vaccine debate is dividing not only communities, but families.

Two in five nursing home workers remain unvaccinated

Deam and her colleagues pulled data provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that now require nursing homes and long term care facilities to report how many residents and employees have been vaccinated. They discovered that roughly 40 percent of care workers remain unvaccinated.

Over 133,000 residents and 2,000 care workers have died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Deam pointed out that the real numbers are far higher, as data only began to be compiled in May of 2020, four months after COVID-19 began to spread in the U.S.

She interviewed two sisters to illustrate how the vaccine debate was even dividing families.

Deam said both sisters love and respect each other, but neither is budging on the vaccine question. They see and try to understand each other, but the unvaccinated sister’s hesitancy on getting vaccinated is like an immovable object.

Vaccine hesitancy explained

While Deam has heard some rather crazy conspiracy stories about microchips and the vaccine changing one’s DNA, most of the reasoning behind many vaccine doubters tends to be more grounded. It instead revolves around the idea that the vaccine has been politicized, that it has not been tested thoroughly and the fact that much of the information on the virus has changed and evolved. It is more of a mistrust of authority figures, especially the government.

But Deam pointed out that the unvaccinated are bringing risk into the nursing care facilities — a population that has health issues and may be more susceptible to getting seriously ill, especially when it comes to the Delta variant.

While one would think those in healthcare would be more open to the science, Deam said that vaccine hesitancy among some health care workers is a sign of the times. These individuals form their point of view from less credited information sources.

Employer mandates may help

Deam sees some hope with vaccine mandates that are coming from employers like Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as mandates for some state and federal employees.

As for nursing home workers, these tend to be low wage jobs, where it is hard to get trained workers. It may be difficult to enforce a vaccine mandate for this community and still get people to work, Deam conceded.


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