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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Roughly Half Of Caregivers At Long-Term Care Facilities Refusing COVID-19 Vaccine

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine sits next to a syringe in a doctor's office at t...

Photo by Jacob Aere

Above: The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine sits next to a syringe in a doctor's office at the Vista Community Clinic, Jan. 8, 2021.

As San Diego County senior care facilities scramble to get COVID-19 vaccines for their residents and staff, they’re finding that roughly half of their caregivers are refusing the shots, according to a member of the county’s vaccine task force.

“It's very destructive when our direct caregivers in long-term care facilities refuse to take a vaccine for whatever reason,” said Karl Steinberg, who sits on the San Diego County COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Advisory Group. “They are really booby-trapping our process because they will still be able to bring the virus into the facility and potentially take it home to families while we’re all working on herd immunity.”

Listen to this story by Amita Sharma.

He said if only 50% of caregivers get the vaccine, “that's not going to do the trick.”

RELATED: COVID-19 Deaths In San Diego County Have Doubled Since Thanksgiving

Staff who are rejecting coronavirus shots at senior care communities appear to see the vaccine as an equal if not greater threat than the virus, he said.

“Some people say, ‘I don’t want to be a guinea pig,’” said Steinberg, who is also president-elect for The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. “Other people think they might be able to catch COVID from it. Some people have those really wild theories about microchips. And then other people say we really don't know yet what the long-term side effects could be.”

Anecdotally, that concern among caregivers is mirrored across the state, according to lawyer Mike Dark of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

“Definitely have heard of hesitancy among staff, though the reasons for their anxiety seems to run the gamut,” Dark said.

Meanwhile, Steinberg said about 90% of long-term care residents in San Diego County are taking the vaccine.

He said facilities are using a carrot-instead-of-stick approach to encourage workers to receive the shot. Health officials plan to combat the vaccine skepticism among caregivers by stepping up information campaigns.

“There will be outreach to communities of color, the Latinx population and we’re hoping to get some peer counseling, perhaps some help from the faith community,” Steinberg said.

Some facilities are even offering $50 to $150 bonuses as an incentive for caregivers to take the shot.

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Photo of Amita Sharma

Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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