Emergency department staff have high COVID-19 vaccination rates

The vast majority of healthcare professionals in emergency departments in the U.S. accepted COVID vaccination, according to a new study, yet still support masking and social distancing.

Editor's Note: The information published in this story is accurate at the time of publication. Always refer to uab.edu/uabunited for UAB's current guidelines and recommendations relating to COVID-19.

Dr. David Pigott, MD (Professor, Emergency Medicine) is wearing blue scrubs and a PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) head cover, and face mask while receiving the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease) vaccination from a female healthcare worker wearing scrubs and a PPE face mask and gloves, December 2020.An overwhelming majority of health care personnel in hospital emergency departments have received a vaccine against COVID-19, according to findings published in Academic Emergency Medicine, the official journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine. The study showed that 95 percent of health care personnel were offered vaccination against COVID-19 within the first month of prioritized distribution to this high-risk group and 86 percent accepted vaccination.

The emergency department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham participated in the study, part of the COVID-19 Evaluation of Risks in Emergency Departments Project, or COVERED Project. Nearly 1,400 health care personnel in emergency medicine in 20 geographically diverse, high‐volume urban U.S. academic medical centers were surveyed in January 2021.

Of 674 physicians or advanced practice providers, 95 percent accepted vaccination, while nursing staff had lower vaccine acceptance with 78 percent of 345 nurses receiving vaccination.  Some vaccine hesitancy was also found among 302 nonclinical workers surveyed, with 76 percent accepting vaccination. The primary reason for declining a COVID‐19 vaccine was concern about vaccine safety, expressed by 45 percent of those who declined.

Other reasons for declining a vaccination included the individual’s health condition, previous diagnosis of COVID-19 and pregnancy.

Following vaccination, 87 percent of the recipients reported feeling safer on the job and that their family members also felt safer.

“Interestingly, approximately 90 percent of vaccinated recipients planned to continue using the same personal protective equipment on the job and in public, including wearing masks and observing other safety precautions,” said Walt Schrading, M.D., a professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at UAB and lead author of the study. “This highlights the importance that these basic safety measures continue to play in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.  Vaccinations are only one piece of the armor which allows us to protect the public and decrease transmission.”

er.covid.3Walt Schrading, M.D., UAB emergency physician and first author of the study.The study found that vaccine hesitancy was higher among health care providers of color, mirroring that which has been reported in the public. Schrading says non-Hispanic Black health care personnel had the lowest vaccine acceptance rate at 65 percent, and it was even lower in the Black non-clinical cohort. Vaccine acceptance rates were slightly lower among female employees than among male employees. Schrading notes that continuing efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy in high-risk populations remain important. 

Acceptance across age groups remained consistent, with a slight increase in acceptance among those employees age 65 and older.

SARS‐CoV‐2, the virus responsible for COVID‐19, has infected more than 29 million Americans, leading to over 535,000 deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports over 378,000 cases of COVID‐19 in U.S. health care personnel with 1,286 deaths. By summer 2020, an estimated 4.6 percent of academic emergency department health care personnel had contracted COVID‐19.

Project COVERED was funded by a cooperative agreement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U01CK000480) and was supported by the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Iowa through a grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health (UL1TR002537).