USA Today, November 2021
For months, Kathy Howell heard grumbling from her fellow nurses and doctors as COVID-19 vaccines became widely available — and a small number of their colleagues refused to get one. “Members of our staff were saying, ‘I can’t believe I work with people who won’t get vaccinated,'” Howell said. “Their colleagues were not happy with them. There definitely were a lot of feelings.”
Those feelings may start getting even more pointed following the Biden administration’s recent announcement that about 17 million healthcare workers must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4. And experts across the country worry that forcing the nation’s already-stressed 76,000 hospitals, health care clinics and nursing homes to implement vaccine mandates may push critically needed workers to quit as tensions between vaccinated and unvaccinated workers grow.
Of particular concern are rural healthcare facilities already grappling with severe staffing shortages and a proportionally larger number of hesitant workers. Experts say vaccine mandates are necessary because unvaccinated healthcare workers can get patients sick. This spring, two residents of a Kentucky nursing home died after getting COVID-19, even though 90% of their fellow residents had been vaccinated. The source of the infection? Their caregivers, half of whom were unvaccinated, according to federal officials.