Spencer Platt / Getty Images
President Biden on Tuesday must announce new steps to reach rural Americans in an effort to vaccinate as many people as possible against the coronavirus, a White House official told NPR. This emphasis comes as rural hospitals raise alarms about vaccination rates – even among their own employees.
The Biden administration is entering a new phase of its vaccination campaign, in which it knows that doctors and health professionals are often more convincing than the government.
So he gave priority to a list of doctors included in the vaccine system, based on a “social vulnerability index” used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – including doctors in many rural communities – and asked the state government to send doses of vaccines to these doctors, the official said.
The administration also plans to work with states to enroll more pediatricians and family doctors in their vaccine systems so they can start giving people vaccines, a move that becomes “especially critical” if the Food and Drug Administration gives emergency authorization for adolescents aged 12-15 to begin receiving the Pfizer vaccine, the official said.
The administration is also working with groups of providers to encourage its members to sign up to give the vaccines, and will provide technical assistance to help practitioners prepare for vaccination, the official said.
The new steps are coming as some rural hospitals find their staff reluctant to receive the shot.
A new survey conducted by the National Rural Health Association and the Chartis Rural Health Center found that 30% of the 160 rural hospital managers who responded said less than half of their staff had been vaccinated – despite that health workers have been entitled for months. Only about a third say 70% of their staff have been vaccinated.
“These survey results are consistent with what we hear from our members, and this is extremely problematic,” said Alan Morgan, chief executive of the National Rural Health Association.
“At the federal level, any effort to overcome vaccine volatility puts health professionals at the forefront and at the center,” Morgan said. “So if you have a quarter of the country’s rural hospitals where less than 50% of their staff are vaccinated, you have a problem that needs to be solved now.”
This study also ranks with a survey conducted earlier this year by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Washington Post which found that 29% of rural health workers do not plan to receive the COVID vaccine. This is more volatile than the survey among health workers in urban and suburban areas.
Michael Topchik of Chartis said the hospitals they work with have high levels of flu vaccination each year. It is required. “We were surprised by how many rural hospitals told us that vaccination levels against COVID-19 were significantly lower,” Topchik said.
In Carolton, Mo., Jeff Tyndle, executive director of the Carol County Memorial Hospital, is outraged about the low vaccination rate among his staff. Only 59% have been vaccinated for COVID and at this time he does not have much hope that this number will increase dramatically.
Tyndall, who describes himself as conservative, like most people in his city, said he assumed healthcare professionals would understand the importance of the vaccine. “I am disappointed that we have built in so many precautions … in the first place to protect our employees. And yet we had almost 40% who chose not to help each other,” he said.
The hospital had a vaccine clinic, but closed it, focusing on supporting the public health department. Most of the people who wanted to get vaccinated in the town of 4,000 have already done so, he said. “We’re worried about always losing a vaccine because we just don’t have enough hands,” he said.
Speaking to friends, Tyndall says some have told him they are afraid of implanting microchips, a false conspiracy theory alive and well on the Internet.
“The staff I’m talking to, healthcare professionals, will be a little more rational in their irrational behavior, saying, ‘Well, Jeff, we don’t have enough research.’ It’s early, “he said.
“I know the shaken people”
Some rural hospitals are more fortunate to vaccinate their employees. Memorial Hospital in the Mount Washington Valley area of New Hampshire is currently 78%. Will Owen, who runs the hospital’s vaccination clinic, said education is key.
In December, a highly respected local doctor named Victor Lazaron sent a letter to staff. “I want to be vaccinated as soon as possible,” Lazaron said in the letter. He cites studies that show that vaccines are effective and that the worst side effects are comparable to the widely used shingles vaccine.
“I hope that everyone will choose to be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available to you. I think this is the best way forward. It is safe and effective. And it will help us get back to our main mission: protecting health. to our friends and neighbors in the Washington Valley, ”Lazaron wrote.
That letter opened people’s minds about the vaccine, Owen said. “I know that [letter] shook people because I had people tell me that, “he said.
There were also staff scaling sessions led by doctors, leaving enough time for questions. The reliability of vaccinated doctors and nurses is reassuring for others in the wider community, said Chief Nursing Director Chris Daskulias, whose roots in the community are so deep that she was born at Memorial Hospital, where she now works.
“I received a lot of text messages, questions. I think people relied on the hospital community, which they knew and trusted, to guide them a little bit in that,” Daskulias said. She said she encouraged people by telling them, “I know it’s a little scary, it’s a little leap of faith, but you know it’s better than the alternatives.”
The White House is turning to local doctors
The White House knows that doctors and other trusted local leaders will be the way to break into the pockets of hesitation in rural communities, said Bechara Chukair, White House vaccination coordinator.
Choucair also cited a various survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that the majority of rural residents had been vaccinated or were planning to be vaccinated – although it also showed that a much smaller proportion of urban and suburban residents residents “would definitely not get shot by those in rural areas.
“Fortunately, we know that the vast majority of healthcare providers are very supportive of us. [the] vaccine. “Ninety percent of doctors and trained nurses have either received the vaccine or are in the process of being vaccinated,” Choucair told NPR, citing national data on doctors and highly qualified nurses.
“We need to do this together for health professionals and non-health professionals, and we will continue to do so,” he said.