26 per cent of BHB doctors, 50 per cent of nurses not vaccinated
“Valid questions” and “understandable concerns” may account for why half the nurses and more than a quarter of the doctors employed by Bermuda Hospitals Board have yet to be vaccinated against Covid-19, according to hospital chiefs.
Dr Wesley Miller, BHB’s chief of staff, and Judy Richardson, BHB’s chief of nursing, answered questions from The Royal Gazette about figures revealing that 26 per cent of the board’s doctors and 50 per cent of its nurses have not received the vaccine.
Dr Miller said BHB “obviously” wanted 100 per cent of its staff, including doctors, to be protected against the virus.
He said: “They work tirelessly in a high-risk Covid-19 environment every day and they deserve to get the best protection available, which is the vaccine.
“We should recognise that doctors are actually the best protected group of healthcare workers at 74 per cent and thank them for stepping up to the plate.
“This figure is continuing to rise as confidence in the efficacy and safety of the vaccine is proven over and over again.
“We should remember that the vaccination has only been available in Bermuda for three months.
“It’s easy to forget because so much headway has been made in rolling the vaccine out.”
Dr Miller said the board was now starting the “more detailed work of better understanding the resistance to vaccination“.
He added: “This requires conversations, and listening to concerns, questions or issues.
“We promote the vaccine, how to get the vaccine and the research about the vaccine daily at the hospital.
“But individuals have concerns, beliefs and values that may mean they may be troubled by getting vaccinated for reasons that are personal, emotional, or historical.
“We need conversations that allow people to explore this as well as conversations that share facts and information.”
Ms Richardson said nurses’ risk was “perhaps the highest” among medical professionals but that BHB was not alone in having only half of its nurses vaccinated in the three months since the vaccine roll-out began.
She said: “The numbers are rising so this is not the endpoint, but with the size of the surge we are currently experiencing we obviously want our staff protected as soon as possible.
“Our nurses are at the bedside in close contact with patients … We do obviously have protection with adequate personal protective equipment and infection control standards, but mistakes can happen, such as forgetting eye protection when going in to care for a patient, or getting used to working in a small team and becoming relaxed about masking at all times.
“Our nurses are the critical backbone of any healthcare service and getting vaccinated means not only their own personal safety and that of their families, but also ensures we don't end up with staff either getting sick or having to be quarantined when there are rising numbers of desperately ill patients in hospital.”
Asked if the reasons why half the nurses have not been vaccinated were known, the chief of nursing replied: “While there is a lot of focus about misinformation, there are also valid questions and concerns, and a desire to see how effective and safe the vaccines prove to be.
“We had a number of staff interested in the AstraZeneca vaccine rather than Pfizer, so the new shipment may also encourage more people to roll up their sleeve.
“Certainly both vaccines work well and we are encouraged that more and more staff have been getting vaccinated each week.”
She said differing vaccination perspectives were often portrayed as “for and against” but the reality was more nuanced.
Ms Richardson said: “There are some understandable concerns people have, and we need to work out as a healthcare organisation how to talk to each other so that people can discuss them.”
She added: “Vaccinated or not, these are our colleagues.
“We want as many people protected as possible, because we care for each other and we work closely together.
“We want our patients to feel safe around their healthcare providers, and for our staff to feel safe around their colleagues.“
The board said last week that nearly half of the people working at BHB – 882 individuals – were fully vaccinated.
To read the full Q&A with Dr Miller and Ms Richardson, click on the PDF under Related Media.