Vaccine Hesitancy Among Oregon Healthcare Workers

Data released by the Oregon Health Authority in June has raised the question of whether healthcare workers in Oregon should be required to get a COVID vaccine. As it stands, Oregon law prohibits healthcare providers and hospitals from mandating vaccinations.   

So what do the vaccination rates among Oregon Healthcare workers look like? Based on the data, they had a total vaccination rate of 70% — the rate Gov. Kate Brown wanted all of Oregon to hit by July 2021. Perhaps a little concerning, given that healthcare professionals have had access to the vaccine for much longer than the rest of Oregon’s population.  

The issue of healthcare vaccination hesitancy is complex. On one hand, healthcare workers interface with a lot of immunocompromised and vulnerable people and there is a real risk of them catching and spreading a disease like COVID-19. Additionally, hospitals elsewhere in the United States have made vaccinations a condition of employment.  

However, if healthcare workers are not vaccinated because of accessibility issues, mandating vaccinations would not solve the root cause.  

The Oregon Nurses Association prefers to keep the laws as they are. Their spokesman, Scott Palmer, explained that, rather than mandate the vaccine, healthcare employers should instead remove barriers between healthcare professionals and the vaccine itself. Providers should have access to proper protective equipment, education about the vaccine, paid time off for vaccine appointments, as well as paid sick leave due to vaccine side effects.   

In the meantime, Benton County residents can take comfort in the vaccination rate of their healthcare workers. It stands at 82%, the highest in Oregon. 

By Jalen Todd 

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