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NMSU researchers: COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among nurses, dentists remains concerning

Release Date: 01 Apr 2022
NMSU researchers: COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among nurses, dentists remains concerning

A research team at New Mexico State University continues to track vaccine hesitancy among various groups globally. The team, led by Jagdish Khubchandani, professor of public health at NMSU, recently examined COVID-19 vaccine refusal among nurses and dentists worldwide in two newly published studies.

A total of 41,098 nurses from 36 countries participated in one study, and the research team found a COVID-19 vaccine refusal rate of 20.7 percent from March 2020 to October 2021. 

“When we look at a breakdown of rates of COVID-19 vaccine refusal among nurses up to December 2020, they were higher. Our review shows that the refusal rates may have declined slightly from 23.4 percent in 2020 to 18.3 percent in 2021,” said Khubchandani, lead author of the study, a collaboration with faculty and students from the NMSU College of Health, Education and Social Transformation.

Nurses who participated in the review cited concerns about vaccine efficacy, safety and effectiveness; mistrust in authorities, pharmaceutical companies and scientific experts; and exposure to misinformation or lack of knowledge. 

“Nurses have been involved at the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19 and also serve as advocates for population health,” said Teresa Keller, nursing professor and interim associate dean of the College of HEST. “To ensure nurses play a major role in helping vaccinate the general public against COVID-19, vaccination refusal and hesitancy must be reduced among nurses by evidence-based interventions.”

Keller served as one of the study’s co-authors along with NMSU public health graduate students Elizabeth Bustos, Sabrina Chowdhury and Nirbachita Biswas 

Chowdhury and Bustos led the second study on COVID-19 vaccination among dentists and dentistry students and found comparable vaccine refusal rates. A total of 2,983 dentists from 11 countries and 7,805 dentistry students from 23 countries participated in their study.

“The rate of COVID-19 vaccine refusal was 19 percent for practicing dentists and 24.9 percent for dentistry students,” Chowdhury said. 

Chowdhury added that the vaccine-hesitant participants in the second study of dentists echoed similar concerns shared by the nurses in the first study. 

In both these studies, Khubchandani said COVID-19 vaccine acceptance was more common among nurses and dentists who were male, elderly or had a history of flu vaccination.

“Vaccine hesitancy among health care workers has been a concern since the vaccines were rolled out in 2020, and in these new studies, we wanted to estimate vaccine refusal before the recent recommendation for boosters came out,” Biswas said.

Bustos said vaccination rates among health care professionals must improve so that families and individuals can interact with them without fear of getting infected. 

“Having young children at home means that we have to depend a lot on nurses and dentists for routine and emergency care,” she said. “Unvaccinated health care workers could pose a risk of COVID-19 infection to children and families.”

Khubchandani said the findings from his most recent studies are consistent with his previous research. He noted that almost one-fifth of certain groups of health professionals worldwide could still be vaccine-reluctant or hesitant. 

“There is a need for continuous education and communication with health care workers regarding COVID-19 vaccination,” he said. “Health care leaders and medical facility managers should act decisively and urgently on interventions that could increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among health care professionals.”

To read the studies, visit https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8761552/ and
https://www.mdpi.com/2076-393X/10/2/230.

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