RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Just over half of nurses in North Carolina say they want to get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new survey by the North Carolina Nurses Association.
Association president Dr. Dennis Taylor said there’s more work to do to communicate with healthcare workers in an effort to boost confidence in the vaccines among them and the general public.
“We’ve not taken any shortcuts when it comes to the safety of rolling out this vaccine, and people need to understand that. And, they need to understand it is safe,” he said. “And, a lot of our members too, in terms of their hesitancy, has been I’m just gonna wait and see what the side effects are and things like that.”
The association surveyed members after a national poll of nurses by the American Nurses Association in October found about one-third were willing to get vaccinated, while another third were unsure and the remaining nurses said no.
The North Carolina poll, which was conducted last week as the FDA considered whether to authorize the Pfizer vaccine, found about 56.5 percent of nurses said they would get a vaccine voluntarily. Another 26.7 percent were unsure, while 16.7 percent said no.
“The biggest (issues) have been misinformation, disinformation, not being able to trust the information that’s being published,” said Taylor. “I think nurses have a responsibility to be the ones to show and set the example that it is a safe vaccine.”
Taylor said he’d been notified he’ll be vaccinated this week.
The first doses began arriving at hospitals across the state this week following FDA approval and CDC guidance.
Dr. Tim Plonk, who is the medical director for the emergency department at Duke Raleigh, received the first dose Thursday.
“There’s hope,” he said. “It’s kind of a lot of mixed emotions, you know. I’ve relived a lot of the last eight months.”
Dr. Plonk said he’s had to get used to the “underlying stress of this pandemic” in an already-stressful environment, as he and his colleagues adapted to treating patients who were positive for COVID-19.
Duke University Hospital received 3,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine Thursday. Duke Health officials say the system employs more than 20,000 people, and they’re encouraging them to take the vaccine. They aim to be able to vaccinate as many as 1,000 people per day if there are enough supplies.
Dr. Plonk said he made the decision to take the vaccine once the FDA determined it was safe and effective.
“I think it’s a responsibility that I have to embrace science,” he said. “Everything that we know about this vaccine right now is safe.”
Officials at Duke Health, UNC Health and WakeMed say they are not requiring employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Donald Gintzig, CEO of WakeMed, said the hospital’s employees are required to get the flu vaccine. However, they’re not requiring this vaccine because it’s been authorized under an emergency use.
He said he expects as more people get vaccinated for COVID-19, interest will grow among WakeMed’s employees and the broader public.
“You gotta remember in the early days it was politicized much more than it needed to be,” he said. “We’ve got a lot more information now, and so we’re doing a lot of employee education, a lot of employee communications.”
He said he planned to get the vaccine once it’s his turn.
“The risk/reward of taking it versus not taking it and getting COVID, it’s a no-brainer for me,” he said.