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COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate For Health Care Workers Leads To Some Pushback

COVID-19 vaccine supplies are pictured at the Grossmont vaccination site in La Mesa, March 1, 2021.
KPBS Staff
COVID-19 vaccine supplies are pictured at the Grossmont vaccination site in La Mesa, March 1, 2021.
New vaccine mandates among the unvaccinated is leading to hesitancy and some pushback.

The requirement for healthcare workers across the state to have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 30 has led to some pushback.

There were protests at children's hospitals around the state on Monday, including at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. Rady Children’s registered nurse, Lisa Silvera was one of about 100 people at the protest, and said current COVID-19 safety protocols should be enough.


"We wear masks at work, we wear face shields with all the patients that I’ve taken care of and the adults I’ve been around, I haven’t caught it yet with those safety precautions so I don’t understand why they feel we need to be forced (to get vaccinated) if the current methods are working," Silvera said.

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KPBS Midday Edition spoke with Dr. David “Davey” Smith, chief of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine, on Monday about vaccine hesitancy among healthcare workers and the general public. Smith said the COVID-19 vaccine isn't the first vaccine to be mandated among healthcare workers, and that it's an added level of protection.

"I do understand how everything is moving quickly, and we have a good vaccine and it works, and people still might have some hesitancy around the vaccine because ... it's so new," Smith said. "But it's not unusual in healthcare situations to have an added level of protection. We've mandated Hepatitis B vaccines for a long time, and we've mandated Measles vaccines for a long time. We have other procedures in place to protect our healthcare workers, but that added level of protection from vaccines is really, really important, and really our best defense."

When it comes to the hesitancy behind getting a COVID-19 vaccine, Smith said it's expected.


"We've had vaccine hesitancy for years, decades, as long as I've been around. Before, people have had some skepticism around vaccines. I think it's a natural, human response. The first defense mechanism we have is called denial, and it's part of this issue around vaccine hesitancy, and it's just now playing out in a grander scale now that we have both a huge pandemic that is costing hundreds of thousands of peoples' lives, and at the same time we have a vaccine that's very new, but also very effective. So that clash of things is going to cause some hesitancy," Smith said.

"Every person might have their own reason why not to get the vaccine. Some patients have told me that they're worried they're going to be magnetized, and other patients are worried that there just isn't enough data out there to say that they're safe for long term," Smith said. "The opinions and thoughts out there are quite varied."

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He said his job as a healthcare provider, and especially as an infectious disease specialist, is to answer people's questions about the vaccine.

But, Dr. Smith said the new mandates could help with increasing vaccinations.

"I think that employer mandates will definitely increase vaccination uptake. I also think that increasing vaccination uptake in the healthcare systems will improve the health of the employees to better take care of the patients."

Corrected: December 5, 2022 at 6:17 AM PST
KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman contributed to this story.
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