What’s Causing COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Among Nurses?

By | 2021-09-22T17:38:39-04:00 September 22nd, 2021|38 Comments

Despite a groundswell of support among professional associations and employer mandates, not all nurses are on board with receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines. What’s causing vaccine hesitancy?

According to a survey by the American Nurses Association of more than 4,900 nurses, 11% of U.S. nurses say they will not get the COVID-19 vaccine or they remain undecided.

Among the 7% of nurses who said they will not get the COVID-19 vaccine, the most common reasons for their decision were a shortage of information about the vaccines’ long-term effects and safety, as well as mistrust about the vaccines’ development, trials, and approvals.

Rationales for Vaccine Hesitancy

According to ANA survey, 88% of nurses have been vaccinated. Yet, 29% of nurses surveyed were against employers requiring vaccination for employment.

“More than 100 staff members at Houston Methodist Hospital who were fired for refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19 appealed a judge’s ruling that sided with the hospital’s right to terminate their employment,” according to Yahoo! News.

Jennifer Bridges, an RN and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed by Houston Methodists’ former employees, said in the article that she is “not anti-vax” and has had previously required vaccines.

Her vaccine hesitancy is based on her concerns that the COVID-19 vaccine was “rushed and it didn’t have the proper research,” according to the article.

Nurses Are People, Too

April Kapu, APRN

When last surveyed by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), about 94% of U.S. nurse practitioners (NPs) who responded had taken steps to obtain the COVID-19 vaccination in March and April of 2021, according to April Kapu, DNP, APRN, ACNP-BC, FAANP, FCCM, FAAN, president of AANP.

“At that particular time, some of the barriers included that they didn’t have access to the vaccine because they were still rolling out the vaccine availability in groupings,” Kapu said.

The number of fully vaccinated NPs should be higher by now, according to Kapu, given the widespread availability of the vaccine.

But nurses are people, too, and have questions just like everyone else about the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Kapu.

“There might be concerns about wanting more information related to the actual vaccine development process,” she said. “They may want more information about the science, the efficacy. It might be something as simple as (and this would be big to them): ‘I don’t want to have any side effects because I have to come to work and I can’t take a day off.’”

Some, like their patients, have had reactions to vaccines in the past and are concerned about that.

The assumption is nurses already have all the information they need to make a sound decision about the vaccine, but maybe they don’t, according to Kapu. In fact, more than one-quarter of the nurses surveyed by ANA said they don’t have enough information about COVID-19 vaccines.

Education Efforts

Ernest Grant, RN

ANA President Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, said some nurses cannot get the vaccine because of existing health conditions. But others might be basing their decision to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine on misinformation, with some of that coming from social media.

While 87% of nurses surveyed indicated they get information about the COVID-19 vaccine from government sources, like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), 15% cited friends and family and 13% said Facebook.

According to Grant, a big concern among young nurses who express vaccine hesitancy is their concern that the COVID-19 vaccine might impact reproduction.

“No study has shown that, so once we are able to point that out, these nurses tend to make the decision to go ahead and get vaccinated,” Grant said. “I think it really comes down to education.”

As scientists, nurses should keep up with the latest science on COVID-19 and available vaccines, according to Grant. To help disperse scientific data, ANA offers the Health Nurse Healthy Nation campaign and collaborates with other organizations on the COVID Vaccine Facts for Nurses webpage.

“We provide information to our state nurse associations so that they too can help filter out bad information to the members by email or newsletters and things on their websites,” Grant said.

AANP announced August 2 that its board of directors passed a resolution to support the efforts of employers to create a safe environment and to stop the spread of COVID-19 in offices, healthcare settings, and other places where people gather. That includes employers’ mandating COVID-19 vaccinations.

Kapu said AANP leaders thought long and hard about supporting employer mandated vaccinations.

“We know how hard it has been to staff nurses in the hospitals to make sure that they are there caring for these patients 24/7, but we really felt it was very important when a healthcare system or any other type of employer steps forward and says ‘We’re going to mandate it for our employees.’ We support that,” Kapu said.

Kapu has seen for herself how effective COVID-19 vaccines are. “I work at a hospital and happen to know that the majority of patients who are coming in — and we have a lot of patients coming in now —  are unvaccinated,” she said.

Politicizing the vaccine and mask wearing has had a negative effect on people’s decisions to take precautions, which are common practices in nursing, according to Kapu, who has had the COVID-19 vaccination. “All of that has become political,” she said. “That is very unfortunate because this is a healthcare crisis. We need to take advantage of the evidence and follow what our healthcare experts are saying, and that is to get vaccinated.”

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About the Author:

Lisette Hilton
Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has been a freelance health reporter for more than 25 years and loves her job.

38 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Melissa September 24, 2021 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    13% of nurses surveyed get their information from Facebook?!?
    We are doomed.

    • Avatar
      Martha Donagrandi September 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm - Reply

      What is even more disheartening is that 13% are given a voice by the media which in turn perpetuates the misinformation.

    • Avatar
      Michelle October 3, 2021 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      This article (especially towards the end) made it sound like all the nurses, who refused the shot, are uninformed. When in reality, we are all uninformed on the long term effects. Some of us don’t want to be guinea pigs.

      • Avatar
        Sherry October 5, 2021 at 11:27 am - Reply

        Sorry but not buying that. I work in a large University Hospital. Have an Infectious Disease Doctor explain the studies. We are in no way Guinea pigs and mRNA vaccines have been studied for some time. We are mandated to take a Flu vaccine yearly to keep our jobs and that vaccine is a little different every year.

        • Avatar
          mary ellen ellen mcdonough October 6, 2021 at 9:12 pm - Reply

          oh Sherry,you were served and drank the kool-aid. do your own research. even Dr Malone, one of the inventors of the MRNA vaccine is telling us they are not to be used in this way. you are not mandated to take a flu shot, you would simply have to wear a mask till June. you should also be questioning the flu shot. i wonder if the ever changing flu shots are creating the ever changing flu? look up Dr Geert VonBossche I suggest not using google or bing as they will not let you find him) and listen to his take on why trying to vaccinate against a circulating virus will only lead to variants. your infectious disease doc is being told to perpetuate this nonsense, its big bucks for the hospital

      • Avatar
        Kelley October 10, 2021 at 12:06 pm - Reply

        Absolutely agree with you. She can not speak for a group of unvaccinated nurses. We are very educated and I work for a very large hospital in the Texas Medical Center. I know the real truths that I see everyday too. What we really should be doing is standing together and not letting this divide us. When I look across the bed of a critical patient, I thank God for my nursing support. Not if they are vaccinated or not. I’m seeing daily the amazing nurses that leave because of the lack of support from Big business that has taken hold of every hospital. The mandatory vaccination is just another Big business AKA… big money move. I am not antivax!! I’m am pro respecting science and God. We have had multi step vaccine protocols in place for years for good reason!!! You start playing God and dismiss these, you will pay his rathe. I’m for All Nurses Stand Together(Nurses for Nurses)!! I’ll will stand with you when you need it!!!

  2. Avatar
    Bill Plotts September 25, 2021 at 12:12 am - Reply

    The reason for nurses getting the vaccine is lack of information about long term effects. But the leader of the ANA says most of those nurses are getting misinformation. So where is the long term effects of a vaccination to be found. He had false reasoning. Stick with science not politics. It would help a lot more people.

    • Avatar
      Diana Waddle October 5, 2021 at 10:18 am - Reply

      Right you are, Bill. At least our nursing organization is finally admitting there are different opinions on this issue. Too bad they just recycled the same article from last week.
      Diana

  3. Avatar
    S Feliciano October 3, 2021 at 8:55 am - Reply

    If it had actually gone through clinical trials the serious side effects would be more widely known. The virus has a 99.8% survival rate and an experimental shot is being pushed. It’s being pushed as a vaccine, but was only developed to reduce symptoms. There is something fishy going on. Follow the money.

  4. Avatar
    Angela Montgomery October 3, 2021 at 9:22 am - Reply

    Post the longterm effects then. I want to see them. I did see in the animal trials where they all died in 2 months. I also as a nurse have seen the effects of this so called “vaccine” on my patients. Oh but it could never be the vaccine causing it. As nurses we know and have seen things. And your numbers are way wrong you all love you inflate the numbers of people who have received these jabs. More coercion.

  5. Avatar
    Christine M. Stoll October 3, 2021 at 11:47 am - Reply

    FAKE NEWS!!! Nurses are certainly NOT stupid but this article is attempting to put us in the Stupid catagory!!!!!
    At the beginning of COVID nurses made the choice to care for patients sick with the COVID virus. They called us heros and couldn’t be bothered to ensure we had the PPE to do our jobs protected. NOW? They want to take the choice away from us and call us all kinds of names. “Our body our choice” only applies to their agenda!!! Make no bones about the fact it isn’t just 1 or 2 vaccines. Now they are talking about multiple boosters!!! When was the last time adults were told to get MMR Boosters? Really? Talk about being “doomed” it is the sheep who follow blindly with Critical Thinking who are “dooming” this world!!!!!

  6. Avatar
    B October 3, 2021 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    It’s my body, why am I forced to get an invasive procedure? What next are employers going to mandate, tattoos?, branding?, seems to me when you are forced to do something it has “wrong” written all over it!

  7. Avatar
    Jezer Gabayan October 3, 2021 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Another big reason, some nurses may have already had covid and they already have natural immunity. So it’s pointless to get a vaccine. Some nurses, like me, did not have a bad reaction to covid, I had a fever as night for 3 days and I feel that if I get covid again, its not going to be severe.

    Also, those that get the vaccine still can get covid, am I right? It lessens the severity of it, but they still can transmit the virus to others, because that’s why we still isolate them from others and wear our PPE. So I do not understand why those that want to enforce vaccines on everyone are saying that unvaccinated people are the reason behind why the virus keeps spreading, if vaccinated people can still transmit the virus?

    I see the vaccine as something that will help the individual that has not gotten covid, but then again I’ve had friends and family that took the vaccine and their S/E ranged from feeling tired to whole body aches and being sick for 3-4 days.

    Let’s remember that we as nurses are humans too and would like our own personal decisions respected w/o being forced or coerced into taking a vaccine just cause a few politicians say we have to or else.

  8. Avatar
    ross October 3, 2021 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Maybe, it is because the RNs have seen the effects of the vaccines. Maybe it is because the vears are not considered truthful. Maybe it is because the transmission of information was blocked to favor the vaccine acceptance. Maybe because the ones in the hospitals labeled as non-vaccinated, knowing that it is the vaccine administered that is effecting these “non-vaccinated for 2 weeks” people. maybe it is because they lived through the worst of the actual disease and saw that people actually get over it quickly and go back to normal with out a questionable vaccine. maybe they don’t like being threatened.

  9. Avatar
    Wayne October 3, 2021 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Spike proteins might have something to do with it.

  10. Avatar
    Renee October 3, 2021 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    Mandates take away freedom of choice. Allow professionals to make their own decisions. I have been vaccinated and have also had covid. It will take years to know long term effects of new urgently approved medications. What happened to being supportive of patients being allowed to make decisions regarding their own health care?

  11. Avatar
    Toni Hicks October 3, 2021 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    I have not gotten the vaccine. I have done a lot of research and listened to a lot of different scientists from many different countries, many of whom have forfeited their abilities to practice because of their convictions that there is something wrong going on. These are highly regarded scientists who have risked everything to dare to have a strong belief that these vaccines have not been studied long enough and have disturbing problems related to them. I watched numerous podcasts where people who have been vaccinated have suffered some disturbing side effects. I also have had Covid back in December 2019. I have antibodies. Why in the world do I need to be vaccinated when my antibodies are still strong against this virus. Those who have been vaccinated are only gaining, maybe 6 months of protection. When “they” say “follow the science,” whose science are “they” following?

  12. Avatar
    Lydia October 3, 2021 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    If it’s so great, why do you have to force people to get it? Why are doctor’s losing their jobs because they speak out? Why not let doctor’s prescribe medicine that has proven to work? Why aren’t there any autopsies of people who die after the vaccine? Something is fishy!!

  13. Avatar
    Cynthia Downing October 3, 2021 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    “According to Grant, a big concern among young nurses who express vaccine hesitancy is their concern that the COVID-19 vaccine might impact reproduction.

    “No study has shown that, so once we are able to point that out, these nurses tend to make the decision to go ahead and get vaccinated,” Grant said. “I think it really comes down to education.”

    HAVE ANY STUDIES SHOWN THAT THE VACCINE DOESN’T CAUSE REPRODUCTIVE PROBLEMS? Talk about misleading information!

  14. Avatar
    Mary Langston October 3, 2021 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    It doesn’t come down to education from the representation of this article. I am an RN. I have declined nor will be forced. There are no studies on effects of reproduction effects because there hasn’t been efficient time for this since starting the shot, which are not true vaccines as there are curative medications that have existed for decades. We have lost faith in the CDC and such because of who controls them. Yes, follow the science not the scientist! There are a lot of unvaccinated- but tell the numbers of those who DID take it and coming in, those who have died within a few days but not counted as a Vax death because it’s less than the 14 days. We may not all be in the same page, but we aren’t stupid have a right to protect our own bodies. PS- it isn’t just nurses but healthcare workers across the board. MSagainstmandates.org

    • Avatar
      Anita M Ocker October 7, 2021 at 11:37 am - Reply

      I am with you on that! I am not completely against the vaccine, but I had COVID at the end of May of this year, after having been exposed to it several times previously for a whole year and a half and not getting it, I had a mild case. I am a CRNP working in the hospital. I believe in natural immunity and doubt that the vaccine is really going to prevent COVID deaths when I am seeing fully vaccinated people with underlying conditions still dying in the hospital, and the UNDERLYING conditions is the key. If a person is at high risk for a bad outcome from COVID because of pre-existing comorbidities, I recommend the vaccine. If a person is otherwise healthy, it should be a personal choice. Even vaccinated people can still get and still spread the virus, so blaming unvaccinated people for the ongoing pandemic is pure propaganda. I oppose mandating it because I have people in my own family with autoimmune issues who should not get the mRNA vaccine – we see the inflammatory response it creates – people with autoimmune issues are already trying to manage inflammatory response issues! Yet the only way to get a medical exemption is if a person can prove an allergic reaction to the first COVID jab or an allergy to an ingredient in the vax. That is certainly not individualizing health care!

  15. Avatar
    alice October 3, 2021 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    I’m not seeing reasons; I’m seeing excuses.

  16. Avatar
    Pamela deRuvo October 3, 2021 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    It is very clear that the vaccination does not prevent the virus. Natural immunity has not been accepted and to be forced to put a chemical in my body that I don’t want should be illegal, especially after having documented antibodies.

  17. Avatar
    Lora Gregory October 3, 2021 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    I was out of work most of last year due to an injury, but when I finally returned in January, I worked 4 shifts and contracted Covid (I wasn’t able to get the vaccine prior to returning to work). As soon as I was able, I got both doses with the last on May 5th. I contracted Covid again on August 25th! I work extensively on Covid units and most are ill equipped with the proper PPE, and we STILL play Roulette with not knowing who is sick because of the many false negative tests. I do feel that even though I had Covid after the vaccine, it could have been a lot worse than if I hadn’t had it, especially the second time around.

  18. Avatar
    Dolores Galloway October 3, 2021 at 10:10 pm - Reply

    I have been a RN for 46 years. I have done extensive research on this Gene Therapy. Not vaccine. I studied the ingredients in Pfizer and I found polypropylene glycol to be one of the main ingredients. This substance is used in anti-freeze. Also a toxic element called graphine oxide. See for yourself. It takes 7 to 8 yrs to know the long-term effects. I have much material on this shot. Nurse’s stay together. Do not let them fire you. As well as military. How do you fire heroes? You are smarter than this.

  19. Avatar
    Carla October 3, 2021 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    How disappointing not to hear a PEEP about autonomy, one of the core tenets of nursing. Nothing about natural immunity. Nothing about the greater than 99% recovery rate. Nothing about the statistical data of harm risk versus benefit. This just proves how far gone the whole system is. Welcome to the machine.

  20. Avatar
    Sme October 4, 2021 at 12:12 am - Reply

    How about how hard it is to report reactions to the vaccine? I had a horrible reaction that months later I am still affected from just from the first “FDA approved” vaccine. I was treated for severe allergic reactions and immune responses, still suffering and getting treatment for this. Not a single facility or dr would write or report my allergic response. I had freaking epi in the facility I was given the vaccine. I’m taken to the er! No note, no insurance claimed, and told I “should be good to get the second dose” and “it’s normal”. I’m not the only nurse struggling to get people to take allergic reactions to this seriously. Side effects are being ignored! That’s the problem!!!

  21. Avatar
    Janet Presson, R.N., M.Ed. October 4, 2021 at 8:34 am - Reply

    As an RN for more than 25 years, I completely understand vaccine hesitancy and support the patient’s right to choose. I have a 29 year old son who was brain injured by his vaccines at 15 month and when I realized what happened and started researching how vaccines are tested, the ACIP process, etc I found that vaccines can and do cause injury or death to many. That is a fact. If you go to the CDC’s website and do a search for Vaccine Excipient and Media Summary you can see the list of ingredients in all of the vaccines available (I don’t think COVID vaccines are on there yet). There is absolutely no reason for vaccines to contain neurotoxins, carcinogens, aborted fetal cells, etc.! After what happened to my son and what I learned in subsequent investigation, I do NOT trust Pharma, the CDC, or the FDA to keep us safe.

  22. Avatar
    susan smyth October 4, 2021 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Nurses should be citing evidence-based science using vetted peer review high evidence level articles. This is also a PANdemic, referring to the world. So many nurses I talk to politicalize the Covid-19 to made up, not enough information or information found on Meewe, facebook, Epoch or other social media sites meant for entertainment. As a professional nurse it is my responsibility to understanding of science, research and best interest to my family, my patients, my colleagues, my community, my country and the world. Embarrassing to the profession of nursing not to be rising above in this world public health crisis. Is it lack of information, understanding, or ignorant? Nurses stick to the foundation of nursing: Science, innovations, and evidence based practice. It is our social duty and oath.

  23. Avatar
    Karyl Rauch RN October 4, 2021 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    I work in extended care. Every resident we have that got the vaccine got Covid. The only single resident that didn’t get it was the one who refused the vaccine. Most of the healthcare workers that work there that took the vaccine got Covid. The only nurses who haven’t got Covid or the nurses who didn’t take the vaccine tell me about the science tell me why it’s rational to take a vaccine that still allows you to get Covid and makes you have to be isolated. How are you going to manage that as staffing issues continuous positives that require isolation because you can transmit it everybody has already burned through all their PTO and sick time and the nurses who aren’t vaccinated get tested every day and are still negative. None of this makes sense.

  24. Avatar
    Sally Chamberlain October 4, 2021 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    I took the vaccine fully aware of the side effects. I was off the next day want rested. The day after that I felt just fine. Call me stupid but I have always received the vaccines required by work and and never knew what was in them.

  25. Avatar
    DR October 4, 2021 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    Here’s a list of my factors for not getting it:
    -lack of transparency of VAERS data
    -no liability of drug makers for disabling ADEs
    -doesn’t stop transmission or infection and I’m in a low risk of death group
    -constant flip flopping of Fauci
    -drug makers making billions of profits most likely would cover up any ADEs and negative data
    -forcing people to submit to a drug without consent and threatening their job is morally wrong

  26. Avatar
    Lori October 4, 2021 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    No long term effects known yet and this is something obvious and cannot be disputed by pushy articles like this.

    Many of us have gone through this illness and have natural immunity/antibodies. Get over yourselves and learn about this to start addressing it.

    No one needs to take a vaccine for a >99% recovery rate much like the common cold.

    Poorly written article.

  27. Avatar
    Suzy October 5, 2021 at 9:52 am - Reply

    About 20 years ago we had two patients with chicken pox. I had never had as a kid and there was no vaccine. The hospital made me stay home until these patients were discharged. Getting chicken pox as an adult can be fatal I was told. So when the vaccine came out, I got it. If you don’t want the vaccine for covid, stay home until we don’t have covid in house anymore. And hope that we don’t get stronger variants. And probably you won’t be allowed to travel either.

    • Avatar
      mary ellen ellen mcdonough October 6, 2021 at 9:17 pm - Reply

      oh suzy do you really think covid is going anywhere? Maybe it will marry the flu and they will go on a long honeymoon then move to Mars.

  28. Avatar
    Michelle Okonieczny October 9, 2021 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    It is amazing to me that so many educated and smart people would still buy into the pseudoscience nonsense that’s posted on social media. Nurses should hold dear to the evidence-based practice standards that we are duty-bound to promote and uphold for the welfare of all people. To create doubt when there should be none is not only a disservice to our patients but to our practice.

  29. Avatar
    Jessica October 12, 2021 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Mrna tech based vaccines began human trials for covid in December 2020, theres no getting around that fact. Ok Mandates at this point are UNETHICAL!! Because we do not know longterm side effects nor side effects on certain populations. I’m disgusted with the way the healthcare profession is handling this and will be leaving allopathy medicine because of it.

    I had covid and NOW WE KNOW natural infection is FAR superior to an experimental vaccine that was mandated.Not to mention OVER 95% of those infected with covid SURVIVE!

    Why not let people CHOOSE what goes in their bodies when its between a government experiment and a sickness that most people survive. Herd immunity DOES NOT DEPEND on a vaccine ALONE! Natural immune people have done their part as well in getting us THROUGH this pandemic.

    Take your big pharma stats and studies and put them where the sun don’t shine because they mean absolutely nothing to me until about ten years go by.

    I’m naturally immune, of childbearing age, have an autoimmune condition, worked with covid from the ONSET of the pandemic and risked MY LIFE. Do not in good conscience inject substances lab tested off the cells of aborted and murdered babies. And I will not be getting this shot. Period!

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