Debbie Ford, Chief Nursing Officer at Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson, was the first Ochsner Health employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at 9:07 a.m. on Monday, December 14, 2020. (Photo provided by Ochsner Health)
Much to the surprise and disappointment of Ochsner Health executives, fewer than half of the hospital system’s employees have been vaccinated for COVID-19, in part because of skepticism about the vaccine, Ochsner Health president and CEO Warner Thomas said in a press conference Monday.
“I would’ve thought we’d be higher (than 49.1 percent),” Thomas said. “We offered it pretty widely early on to a lot of folks, and honestly now it’s more difficult (to inoculate staff) because we’ve got a lot of patients we’re trying to take care of.”
Some employees have reportedly expressed concerns that the vaccine would diminish the vaccinated person’s fertility.
“Because of all the false information on the internet about fertility, our workforce does have a lot of young staff that have concerns about that,” said Robert Hart, Ochsner’s chief medical officer.
He said Ochsner has “continued to spend a lot of time educating” their employees about the safety of the vaccine to try to address their skepticism, including telling employees that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended getting the vaccine. Even so, Hart said “There’s still some hesitation.”
Overall hesitancy has decreased some “as people are seeing their colleagues getting vaccinated more and more,” Thomas said, but he said he was still surprised that fewer than half of the system’s employees had been vaccinated. At this point, Thomas said, hospital employees are no longer Ochsner’s priority.
Unvaccinated employees who decide now that they want the vaccine will have to get behind other patients already on the waitlist, a list that was 520 patients long Monday.
“We’re going to take care of those other people that’ve signed up — those 70-year-olds right now,” Hart said.
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