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Health care providers say some employees are reluctant to get COVID-19 vaccine

It's a 'fear of the unknown,' said one health care provider

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The first COVID-19 vaccine was approved in the United States late last year. Health care workers are among the first group to get the vaccine, but some are experiencing an obstacle in a place they didn’t expect it — some staff members are reluctant to receive the vaccine.

Tim Dolan owns 16 Dolan Memory Care Homes in the St. Louis area. He said they partnered for COVID-19 vaccinations with Walgreens, and they are scheduled to get underway for residents and staff starting Wednesday.

“We are deemed by the state as ‘assisted living,’ and we are next in line to get the vaccine," Dolan said. "So, we are the third tier of the first wave.”

But Dolan said nearly half of his staff members are hesitant to get the shot.

“The staff is a challenge,” said Dolan. “What we’re dealing with here is the fear of the unknown. There are a lot of conspiracy theories laying around on social media.”

At Friday’s Pandemic Task Force briefing, Dr. Alex Garza yielded the platform to Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, a Washington University and BJC infectious disease specialist. She addressed the reluctance of people of color to get the vaccine.

“What I want to say today is that I am now fully vaccinated,” said Davis. “As of an hour ago, I received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Now we know what the documented side effects are. What I say to you is I must sit down and think about for me, my family and my baby girl that was born in May of this year — what is the risk and benefit of me taking a vaccine versus the risk and benefit of me not only getting coronavirus, but possibly dying from it? It's clear to me that the vaccine is one of the most important tools that we have in our toolbox.”

Dolan said he hopes to lead by example.

“Our management team is going to get vaccinated first. I’m going to get vaccinated right in front of everybody else to let them know that I’m not afraid of it,” said Dolan.

The Associated Press reports that there have been no signs of widespread severe side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. Scientists say the drugs have been rigorously tested on tens of thousands of people and vetted by independent experts.