As Marin County’s three hospitals work to vaccinate their employees for the coronavirus, some staffers have decided not to get the shots.
“Right now, roughly 30% of our employees have declined the vaccination,” Karin Shavelson, chief medical officer at MarinHealth Medical Center in Greenbrae, said on Tuesday.
Shavelson said that number might change by the end of the week when the hospital completes its initial push to get all of its employees their first shot of the vaccine. She was unavailable for an update on Friday.
“Obviously, there will be future opportunities,” Shavelson said, “but we’re really encouraging all of our staff and providers to come in this week.”
By Tuesday, MarinHealth had administered 1,850 vaccinations. Most of the doses dispensed were the Moderna vaccine, but about 500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were also used. Shavelson said all hospital employees were given the opportunity to be vaccinated, although frontline medical staff got top priority.
On Thursday, Ashley Boarman, a spokeswoman for Novato Community Hospital, said that about 25% of the employees there had declined to be vaccinated.
“Some employees were eligible for their second dose and others who attended the clinic were receiving their first dose today,” Boarman wrote in an email. “The opportunity to get the vaccine is open to any employee who wants to get it.”
At Kaiser Permanente’s San Rafael Medical Center, said Dr. Naveen Kumar, “Interest in the vaccine has been high among staff and physicians, and this week we have begun delivering the second doses of the vaccine.”
Kumar declined to say what percentage of the employees chose to be vaccinated.
“The vaccine is not mandatory for Kaiser Permanente staff or physicians,” Kumar said.
Shavelson said she has heard several common concerns.
“I have encountered a fair number of women of childbearing age who have the misconception that it could cause some amount of infertility or early pregnancy loss,” she said.
Shavelson said others are worried about the RNA in the vaccine. The hospital has tried to address these and other concerns in a “mythbusters” section on its website accessible to employees.
According to the site, concerns that vaccines cause infertility or miscarriage have been driven by “internet postings by a former scientist known to hold anti-vaccine views.”
“While data clearly indicate pregnant women are at higher risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19 infection, there is no evidence of increased miscarriage rates,” it says.
The use of RNA or mRNA — messenger RNA — in the vaccines is relatively new. “Injecting mRNA into your body will not interact or do anything to the DNA of your cells,” the website says. “Human cells break down and get rid of the mRNA soon after they have finished using the instructions.”
Shavelson said, “As a health care provider, it surprises me when anyone declines any vaccine, but I have a trust in science and am fortunate to have been trained to analyze and review scientific publications. I understand there is a bit of a culture of fear and mistrust of science. That is unfortunate.”
Shavelson said while some people who have received the vaccine have experienced some minor side effects, there have been no serious reactions. MarinHealth staggered its vaccinations to ensure there would be no staffing issues.
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“I would rather have a little bit of a response than no response at all,” Shavelson said. “It means that your body is recognizing the vaccine and making antibodies to COVID.”
Shavelson said while she understands that some people want to wait and see how others who take the vaccine fare, “I feel a personal moral obligation to be vaccinated to keep our patients and each other as safe as possible. I think, all of us — the public, health care workers, teachers, paramedics, everybody — needs to do our part in this pandemic.”
Shavelson said she administered the vaccine to co-workers the day before Christmas.
“There were people cheering. There were a few who were crying,” she said. “It was very emotional for all of us.”
Many Marin hospital workers decline coronavirus vaccine