Survey authors said findings merit further research into how to increase health care workers' confidence in discussing and recommending COVID-19 vaccines with patients.
These findings were presented at IDWeek 2021, held virtually September 29 to October 3, 2021.
“The rapid speed of COVID-19 vaccine development, utilization of novel technology, and an atmosphere of politicized misinformation have created a perfect storm for vaccine hesitancy. As early adopters of vaccination, HCWs set an example for the general population…However, comparatively little work has investigated HCWs' attitudes toward vaccination and how those attitudes drive their recommendation behavior,” wrote study authors led by Steven Schaeffer Spires, MD, assistant professor of medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina.
To better understand HCWs beliefs about COVID-19 vaccines and what types of messages would improve their confidence in the vaccination and in recommending vaccination to patients, Spires and colleagues randomly assigned 674 North Carolina hospital employees (84% women, 85% White) to see 1 of 3 different messages related to the vaccine and vaccination or no message (control) in February 2021.
Message themes included an appeal to return to normal life (normalcy), an explanation of vaccine safety and efficacy even given the rapid development process (process safety), and signal detection theory (SDT) that compares the risk of getting vaccinated or not (risk assessment).
Out of the total cohort, 98% of HCWs had been offered the COVID-19 vaccine and 80% had already accepted the vaccine. For the 20% who had not received the COVID-19 vaccine, the top reasons cited included the speed of development and testing, as well as concerns regarding vaccine safety and effectiveness, according to the study abstract.
Survey results showed HCWs were generally very comfortable recommending the COVID-19 vaccine to patients and supported the idea of sharing the specific message they read. The process message was rated as the one HCWs felt would be the most helpful to patients and the one they would be most likely to be shared with them, while the SDT/risk assessment message was the one most trusted personally among HCWs. “This suggests that what is most appealing on a personal level is not necessarily what a HCW would recommend to their patients,” explained researchers.
Rating the message as trustworthy or believable was positively correlated with sharing among the HCWS (Pearson coefficient r=0.6), according to the abstract.
“HCWs' high uptake and minimal hesitancy in recommending the COVID-19 vaccine is encouraging and merits further exploration for how to increase confidence in HCW who are hesitant to discuss and recommend vaccines to patients, as several highlighted the importance of respecting patient autonomy,” concluded researchers.
The study abstract will be presented during the IDWeek 2021 poster session titled COVID-19 Vaccines by Dr Spires.
Reference: Spires SS, Dodds AE, Clark J, et al. Hesitancy in uptake and recommendation of COVID-19 vaccines by US healthcare workers. Abstract (580) presented at: IDWeek 2021; held online September 29-October 3, 2021.