Some experts say patience may be the best response to care home workers who oppose the coronavirus vaccine.


So long care – long-term care facilities suffered disproportionately during this pandemic. An analysis by the New York Times put the death toll in nursing homes at 136,000, more than a third of the US total. These are both residents and employees. Yet some nursing home workers oppose vaccination. Aneri Pattani of Kaiser Health News took a close look at the topic and found that there is a difference between never saying and not saying yet.

ANERI PATTANI: At this nursing home outside of Charlotte, NC, the dining room has become a temporary vaccination clinic. The Brian Center Cabarrus staff were called into teams to receive their recordings from CVS pharmacists.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON # 1: As with other shots, you may find yourself feeling a sore arm. For this you will take Tylenol. Then let’s go.

PATTANI: Tremellia Hobbs is the activity leader. She had lined the clinic room with blue and green star shaped balloons because she wanted it to feel like a party.

TREMELLIA HOBBS: Monica, are you ready?

MONICA: I’m ready.

HOBBS: Give me some action. Monica are you ready

MONICA: I’m ready.

HOBBS: Are you ready?


PATTANI: Hobbs filled goodie bags with Lifesaver rubbers and notes that said thank you for being a lifesaver. She pulled out pom poms to cheer on her staff.

HOBBS: He’s our man. If he can’t, no one can. Go stewart.

PATTANI: But even when she chose to do other things, Hobbs knew she wasn’t getting the vaccine herself.

HOBBS: No, I’m not going to receive it in person today. I would like to see – give it a little more time.

PATTANI: Many nursing home workers across the country have said the same thing. In North Carolina, about 50% have turned down the vaccine. Ohio and Virginia reported similar numbers. And that worries the health authorities. Hobbs and her coworkers, who also chose not to get the vaccine, say it is not an easy yes or no for them. They saw COVID rush through their facility over the summer, infecting 30 employees and killing 10 residents. But the vaccine is also brand new. Hobbs doesn’t make the decision lightly. She works in healthcare. She respects Dr. Fauci. It is the timing that worries them.

HOBBS: Like I said, I trust science. That just seemed like a very quick fix to have something to diagnose and cure and vaccinate within 10 months. So I’d rather weigh my options and just wait and see.

PATTANI: That wish to wait and see – Dr. Kimberly Manning says she hears this from a lot of people, especially black Americans. Manning, who is also black, is a professor in the medical school at Emory University in Atlanta and has volunteered for the Moderna vaccine study.

KIMBERLY MANNING: And I think we should stop saying that people are just saying no. Some people are what one of my loved ones calls a slow yes. Some people are a slow yes. And we’re just too impatient to get to the point where we let her get her yes. We are like the used car dealer. We’re just trying to close the deal.

PATTANI: She says people respond better to patience and empathy. That’s why she always tries to understand her reasoning. Why no or why yes?

Back in North Carolina, Caitlyn Huneycutt, a certified nurse at the center, says why no, that she recently started a new drug. She’s worried about how it will interact with the vaccine.

CAITLYN HUNEYCUTT: I heard that some people got their shot and that they passed out. I want to make sure I am healthy when I take it.

PATTANI: At the end of the day, 64% of residents got their first shot, but only about 48% of staff. Stewart Reed was one of them. He’s the center administrator.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON # 2: You did great.

STEWART REED: Excellent job.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON # 3: Thank you very much.


PATTANI: Reed’s goal is to immunize 90% of its staff and residents. He is optimistic that this will happen after the nursing home has two more vaccination clinics.

REED: That’s the great thing about so many people getting it today – the people who didn’t see the guys who got the shot will be fine when the next clinic comes. So you won’t hesitate to get the shot. It should be much better.

PATTANI: He’s betting that some of these no-yets will turn into slow yes-votes over time.

For NPR News, I’m Aneri Pattani in Concord, NC

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