Some health care, frontline workers are declining vaccines

Members of the public can now register online for a COVID-19 vaccine in Harris and Fort Bend Counties, as shipments begin arriving for those who are at high-risk for the virus. While the vaccine is in demand, a significant number of people are against getting it.

The first round of COVID-19 vaccines was available to health care workers only, but when that first shipment arrived at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, many of the front line workers chose not to receive the vaccine.

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COVID-19 vaccine appointments at the city of Houston's first public vaccination site are completely booked for the rest of the month.

"Of the first week that we started vaccinating, 40 percent of our staff did not want to be vaccinated on the basis of: let’s wait and see what happens to you guys, and then we get it," said Dr. Joseph Varon, the chief of staff at UMMC.

Varon was first in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine when the first shipment arrived at UMMC in late December, but convincing the rest of his staff to follow his lead is another story.

"I was a little disappointed because even the nurses that were working with me in the COVID unit where we see people die every day, where things are bad—some of them- they said that they did not want to get the vaccine, and I respect them, you know," said Varon. "I understand. But a lot of this has to do also with some of our own cultural ideas. I can tell you the Latinx community, the African American community have very strong feelings about vaccination."

Varon told FOX 26 fewer of his Latinx and Black employees got vaccinated compared to other races on his staff.

First COVID-19 vaccines administered in Houston, Galveston

Several hundred people will be vaccinated each day at the hospital until the supply runs out, but hospital officials say they expect they’ll get weekly shipments of the vaccine.

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The hospital is continuing to conduct the voluntary vaccinations this week after receiving enough supply to vaccinate all staffers.

Experts say UMMC is not the only location where some health care workers are resisting the vaccine.

"Riverside County in California is an example," said Paul Seegert, Managing Partner at PCS Advisers. "Fifty percent of their front line health care workers have declined to take the vaccine … The governor of Ohio has shared that 60 percent of nurses in their state have declined to take the vaccine, and the numbers across the country are pretty similar."

FOX 26 checked in with Memorial Herman, Houston Methodist, UTMB, and MD Anderson to see how many of their medical staff have agreed to take the COVID-19 vaccine. So far MD Anderson is the only one that responded, sending this statement:

"The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has vaccinated more than 7,700 employees since receiving its first allocation of COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14. Currently available workforce vaccination clinics are fully booked. There have been no anaphylactic reactions. Immediate reactions have been experienced by fewer than 25 people, most commonly consisting of dizziness, palpitations and hypertension."

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