Two thirds of care homes in a Birmingham suburb say staff are refusing to get a coronavirus vaccine.
And in one care home, 23 out of 25 staff have turned down the vaccine – including the manager.
These are the findings of a survey of homes housing elderly and vulnerable people in Erdngton, Birmingham Local MP Jack Dromey described the low take up amongst care home staff as a “significant risk”, and said he blamed those who spread lies about vaccines.
The survey, carried out by the MP, found that resistance to taking a vaccine was often caused by dangerous misinformation. Reasons cited by care homes include staff believing the vaccines are “poisonous” and that they “cause infertility”, despite these myths having been disproven.
It’s particularly worrying because research increasingly suggests vaccines don’t only protect the people who take them, but also other people around them. Initially, scientists thought vaccines might simply reduce the symptoms of coronavirus, but it’s become clear that they also reduce the chances of catching the virus, and passing it on to others.
A study led by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported by the British Medical Journal, found that vaccination with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine reduces infections by 90%, while a single dose confers 80% protection.
Mr Dromey’s office contacted all 47 care home in his constituency, and 30 replied. All care homes report that all staff and residents have been offered the vaccine, but 20 reported that some staff had turned the offer down.
In one care home, 23 out of 25 staff refused the vaccine, including the manager. In another home, eight out of ten staff refused. Another home said three quarters of staff had turned down the vaccine.
Reasons people cited for refusing the vaccine included being unsure of side effects and watning more time to see the longer-term effects
But myths and dangerous misinformation are clearly influencing people’s decisions. Reasons such as the vaccine being “poisonous” and causing “infertility” were reported by care homes.
Some staff also refused due to “religious beliefs” – even though religious leaders of all faiths have declared the vaccines to be in accordance with their religious beliefs.
Care homes said there was a particularly high rate of vaccine hesitancy among ethnic minority staff members.
Mr Dromey said: “The results of my latest care home survey reveal worrying levels of vaccine uptake amongst care home staff. Of the care homes who completed the survey, 67% reported that some of their staff have refused the vaccine, including one care home where 23 out of 25 staff refused to be vaccinated.
“Throughout the pandemic, care homes and their residents have been hit so hard by Covid. The staff have done fantastic work, going above and beyond to ensure care home residents get the very best care in difficult circumstances.
“However, the fact that so many staff in care homes across Erdington are refusing the vaccine is deeply concerning. There is a significant risk posed to care home residents in particular who, for one reason or another, are unable to be vaccinated.
“What is also concerning is some of the reasons that were given for refusing the vaccines. Myths such as the vaccine is ‘poisonous’ and it ‘causes infertility’ were both quoted in the responses, despite these having been comprehensively disproven. Those who are responsible for sharing these dangerous myths should be utterly ashamed of themselves.
“Building upon the ‘Be Safe and Vaccinate’ campaign that has been launched by the Erdington Covid-19 Task Force, I will be looking at how we continue to encourage vaccine uptake and dispel any myths that surround vaccines.
“Getting vaccinated protects not only you, but your family, friends, and neighbours. I would urge everyone across Erdington to accept the offer of a vaccine when contacted by the NHS.”