Why are so many healthcare workers still not vaccinated and will the mandate help?
Health care workers in California have until the end of September to get their full immunizations. State order applies to anyone working in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, doctor’s offices, dialysis centers, drug treatment programs, and more. Exceptions exist for religious beliefs or a qualified medical condition, but those who request exceptions will be subject to regular testing.
At Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Downey, emergency room technician Gabriel Montoya says less than half of his colleagues in the emergency room are vaccinated.
“Healthcare workers are not immune to the disinformation circulating on the Internet, on news networks,” he says. “Often what I hear from my colleagues is, ‘I don’t know what the long term problems will be. Will it change my cellular structure as I get older? And then from my colleagues who are still at an age where they can get pregnant, they worry about what it does for fertility.
He says there is still a lot of inaccurate and insufficient information circulating. As a member of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, he doesn’t think Kaiser and other hospital employers are doing enough to educate members.
“We have this mandate coming, and our question as union leaders is: where was this education that we think should have been more aggressive to educate people? “
Vaccination rates are highest among staff at LA County + USC Medical Center, where Dr. Brad Spellberg is the chief medical officer. He says 73% of his staff are vaccinated and hopes the mandate will bring that percentage to close to 100.
“If you are a healthcare provider, if you come into contact with patients, there is an ethical responsibility to protect these patients from this contagious disease and to protect our staff and colleagues,” he says, acknowledging the so that part of the population will never want to be vaccinated.
So what should we expect on September 30? Montoya predicts that his colleagues who have genuine exemptions will not be vaccinated, but the majority will be vaccinated.
“We have heard threats from colleagues and union members that they will quit their jobs sooner before getting vaccinated. But I think the reality will strike in September that people have bills to pay, mortgages to pay, children to support, and people will reconsider that. “