Vaccine

Some Health Care Workers May Not Be First In Line for COVID-19 Vaccine

More Than 66% of healthcare workers in one study say they plan to delay taking the vaccine

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The first coronavirus immunizations could come as soon as Dec. 12, according to the head of the Federal Vaccine Development Program and healthcare workers will likely be involved in the first phase of recipients.

But a study from UCLA and a poll from the American Nurses Association show some healthcare workers plan to delay taking it.

“I’ve heard the term "guinea pig" thrown around, that they don't want to be the guinea pig for an untested vaccine," explained Michael Kennedy, a representative for the California Nurses Association.

As an ICU nurse in San Diego, Kennedy could be among the health care workers offered a COVID-19 vaccine before the general public.

And though he plans on getting it now, he initially had concerns.

"I was not sure at first whether I would be, but I  wanted to hear -- honestly, I wanted to hear from Dr. Fauci's mouth it’s safe," he said.

Kennedy wasn't alone in his initial apprehension. According to a poll from the American Nurses Association, 34% percent of nurses say they plan to get the vaccine while 36% say no and  31% are unsure.

Kennedy has heard the concerns from some of his union members.

"There is some level of just distrust among nurses because of how this pandemic unfolded and how the federal response was bungled and how we were just left to fend for ourselves for such a long time," he explained.

The speed at which the vaccine was developed is also causing consternation for some health care workers.

While most vaccines take years to develop, potential coronavirus vaccines have been fast-tracked in nine months.

“The government is taking on the financial risk and as a result, things are moving much faster," said Mark Sawyer, M.D.

Sawyer, a Rady Children’s Hospital infectious disease specialist, says he understands the concern, but said the speed hasn't impacted the safety measures in place.

“What's not changing is the amount of data that's collected on safety and effectiveness. You know that the clinical trials that have been completed and have at least 30,000 people, and that's the number that we always get with a vaccine clinical trial. So I am already reassured by the information that's come out so far that there's no serious side effect," he said.

As health care leaders await for a distribution of a new COVID-19 vaccine, some people have expressed concerns over taking it. NBC 7’s Steven Luke has details.

No immunization dates have been given for the nurses Kennedy represents, but he said they're being urged to play it safe.

"We have encouraged everyone who is able to take the vaccine, who is healthy and able to take the vaccine, to do so to protect themselves, protect their family and protect their patients," said Kennedy.

Though you can’t completely eradicate a virus with a vaccine, it could be tough to get the virus under control if people choose not to take it, Dr. Sawyer said.

"Well, I think for the foreseeable future, the vaccine is our only hope to get COVID under control. Clearly, we haven't been able to do it just with masks and social distancing," he said.  

Whether the coronavirus vaccine will be required for California health care workers is unknown.

But according to the CDC’s website, California health care workers are required to get some immunizations, including flu shots, though there are some exceptions.

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