Oregon healthcare providers still unvaccinated, new data shows

Ninety-four percent of dentists in Oregon have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

But only half of chiropractors have received a jab. And for chiropractic assistants the vaccination rate is 45%.

Dentists and chiropractors account for high and low vaccination rates among licensed health workers in the state, new data shows. Many other health care professionals also have relatively low vaccination rates: only 57% of Oregon certified nursing assistants are vaccinated; 60% of registered professional nurses are vaccinated; and only 56% of advanced emergency medical technicians received an injection.

The image appeared in published data by the Oregon Health Authority. The data, updated July 3, raises the curtain on how healthcare professionals have adopted – or resisted – the COVID-19 vaccine.

The relatively low rates in many healthcare professions have rekindled the question of whether vaccines should be mandatory for healthcare workers who may come in close contact with patients and have a high risk of catching the virus or of contracting the virus. pass it on to others.

The state hospital industry group says Oregon executives must step up and change state law so providers can mandate vaccinations.

But others say it’s better to use advocacy and other means to encourage health workers to get immunized, rather than threatening them with interruption.

Regardless, the information reveals how many health workers have rejected the vaccine or simply did not care, even though health officials are advocating vaccination of the population as a whole.

Certified nursing assistant Morgan Shaw, left, and respiratory therapist Nathan Armstrong await their next patient in April 2020 during drive-thru testing for COVID-19 at McKenzie Willamette Hospital in Springfield.

Hesitation hits health care

Some data offers few surprises: Healthcare workers as a group are slightly more vaccinated than the general public. Overall, they had a 70% vaccination rate at the end of June, ahead of Governor Kate Brown’s 70% target for the general population. The state achieved this goal on July 2.

Yet health workers have had much more time to get vaccinated.

They were the first group to become vaccine eligible when vaccines were scarce and in high demand, as Oregon developed priority lists to deliver vaccines to frontline health workers and others at risk. The highest. This was before Oregon turned to lottery prizes and giveaways in an attempt to boost its slow vaccination rate after vaccines became widely available.

On the contrary, statistics are a reminder that vaccine reluctance continues to be stubborn in Oregon, even among those who work in health care and have had access to vaccines longer than other Oregonians. In addition, barriers to immunizing the entire Oregon population also persist among healthcare workers. Health care workers belonging to minorities or living in rural areas of the state often have lower vaccination rates than their peers elsewhere in Oregon.

@chrispietsch - COVID-19 vaccinations have started for frontline health workers at Lane County hospitals.  Visit www.registerguard.com for updates @registerguard #coronavirus #vaccine @PeaceHealth_Ore

This highlights another reality for Oregon: State law prevents healthcare providers and hospitals from making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for employees who work with their patients, even though the same providers vaccinate the patient. general public and extol the importance of vaccination. Health care employers are required by law to provide vaccines to their employees, but they cannot require vaccines as a condition of employment.

The debate continues to unfold, even as Oregon has reopened its economy and embarks on the long task of collective immunity.

Oregon still aims to vaccinate 80% of adults to reach the herd immunity threshold. To do this, the state will have to vaccinate nearly 455,000 additional people, according to figures from health authorities. Currently, only about 5,000 people a day get vaccinated, according to state data.

Hospital group: “Wrong policy”

In response to state data on vaccination rates among healthcare workers, the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Healthcare Systems said Wednesday, July 14 that the state’s “flawed policy” of not allowing vaccination mandates to work continues to hamper progress. Hospitals across the country pay for mandatory vaccines for employees.

“As the number of hospitals and health systems requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees continues to increase in the United States, here in Oregon we cannot even have the conversation,” said Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of the association, in a press release. “Ensuring healthcare workers are immunized protects vulnerable patients, visitors and colleagues. It is unreasonable to leave tools on the table during a global pandemic. It is high time that heads of state tackled this misguided policy.

More than 30 hospital systems and hospital associations across the country support immunization mandates, according to the Oregon group. Houston Methodist was the first nationwide healthcare system to require vaccinations for employees, starting in April, according to a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Italy, France and Greece are among the countries that have made the vaccination of healthcare workers compulsory.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown spokesperson on Wednesday did not rule out – or approve – mandatory vaccinations.

“For both their own safety and the safety of the patients they work with, it is essential that frontline healthcare workers are protected from COVID-19 with vaccines,” said Charles Boyle, spokesperson for Brown . “This is why the governor has prioritized health care workers in Phase 1a of Oregon’s vaccination efforts. The Oregon Legislature has just completed a six-month legislative session, which would have been the appropriate venue to raise this issue and debate such a change in Oregon law.

Boyle said the issue “deserves careful consideration and input from the public of employers and employees,” adding that the Legislative Assembly session in February 2022 provides that opportunity.

But there is resistance to such a mandate, both in Oregon and in other states. In Texas, 117 Houston Methodist workers sued the warrant in federal court, but their case was dismissed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. In the June 12 decision, the judge found that the hospital “is trying to do its job of saving lives” and that employees can refuse to be vaccinated and go to work elsewhere.

Lane County RN and public health volunteer Michael Battig sticks a bandage on Jordana Steck after giving her a COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-thru clinic.

Nurses union supports current law

The Oregon Nurses Association, the union that represents about 15,000 registered nurses and paramedics, said it was not looking to change state laws for workplace vaccinations.

Registered nurses have a 74% vaccination rate.

“ONA has a long history of promoting and providing free immunizations while protecting the confidentiality of individual health records,” said Scott Palmer, union spokesperson. “We are not currently seeking to change the Oregon statutes regarding workplace vaccinations. We will continue to discuss the most effective ways to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are accessible and fair to all Oregonians. “

Palmer added that companies have other tools at their disposal to increase vaccination rates instead of killing people.

“We believe there is a lot more work that companies can do to protect workers and increase vaccination rates before they start laying off workers in Oregon during a pandemic,” Palmer said.

“Companies must first ensure a safe workplace and support workers by providing appropriate safety equipment, vaccine education, paid time off for vaccine appointments, paid sick leave covering Possible side effects of vaccines and workers’ compensation for workers in high-risk settings who contract COVID-19 on the job. Healthcare companies can do more to make immunization an easy choice for all Oregonians. “

A health worker administers a COVID-19 vaccine at Nye Primary School in Laredo on February 1.

Disinformation remains a concern

In rural Oregon, vaccination rates for healthcare workers are low, a trend similar to that of the general public.

Grant, Harney, Lake and Malheur counties each have healthcare worker immunization rates of 50% or less, according to state data. Harney County has the lowest rate at 43%.

Lane County has a healthcare worker vaccination rate of 75%, the sixth highest in the state. Benton County has the highest rate at 82%.

The Oregon Health Care Association, which represents the long-term and senior housing industry, said healthcare workers continued to be reluctant to get vaccinated.

“Our staff are exposed to the same vaccine misinformation online and in their daily lives as other Oregonians,” the group said in a statement.

Some providers have been able to achieve high vaccination rates, but others continue to see hesitation among staff, the group said.

There are 21 active outbreaks of COVID-19 totaling 188 cases in seniors’ residences and other gathering places across Oregon, according to state data released Wednesday.

In Lane County, there are four active outbreaks in senior residences and other gathering places.

After:COVID outbreak in an assisted living facility in Florence has so far infected 25 residents and staff

You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @ BenBotkin1.

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