Up to half of health care workers in some parts of California are refusing to take the coronavirus vaccine, leading to a potential surplus of doses and renewed questions about the system for allocating them.

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday:

At St. Elizabeth Community Hospital in Tehama County, fewer than half of the 700 hospital workers eligible for the vaccine were willing to take the shot when it was first offered. At Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, one in five frontline nurses and doctors have declined the shot. Roughly 20% to 40% of L.A. County’s frontline workers who were offered the vaccine did the same, according to county public health officials.

So many frontline workers in Riverside County have refused the vaccine — an estimated 50% — that hospital and public officials met to strategize how best to distribute the unused doses, Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari said.

The extent to which healthcare workers are refusing the vaccine is unclear, but reports of lower-than-expected participation rates are emerging around the country, raising concerns for epidemiologists who say the public health implications could be disastrous.

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Some health care workers are skeptical of vaccines; others worry that the development of the coronavirus vaccine may have been rushed.

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Still, others believe that because they have been able to avoid infection for months by wearing masks and taking other precautions, they can continue to do so, the Times reports.

Earlier in December, Fast Company magazine pointed out that mandatory vaccine policies in the workplace also tend to backfire, ironically, as more people are likely to be vaccinated when participation is voluntary.

Debate continues about the best way to distribute the vaccine. Florida has adopted a first-come, first-served approach for the elderly, leading to criticism — but also to a potentially faster rollout to a vulnerable population.


Other states have prioritized health care workers and first responders, which has led to some delays in wider distribution.

Vice President Joe Biden, who criticized President Trump’s vaccine development efforts during the presidential campaign, complained earlier this week that “the Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind.”


Operation Warp Speed leader Gen. Gustave Perna apologized earlier this month for the confusion that led to many states receiving fewer doses than they had expected. However, White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that he expected the program to catch up to its targets after “hiccups.”

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