Covid-19 Vaccine Mandates May Alienate Healthcare Workers But Woo Patients

In the latest efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19, healthcare organizations across the country have announced vaccine mandates for employees ahead of new federal vaccination requirements

Many providers are paying the price for vaccine mandates with staff resignations and suspensions. Some have had to close whole services as a result. 

But what vaccine mandates may cost healthcare providers in terms of employee retention could yield dividends through improved consumer trust.

“I would feel more comfortable seeking care from healthcare providers who are fully vaccinated,” said Emily Cooper, New York City-based founder and general director Oliver Wicks, a luxury menswear brand. “I choose to trust in the power of science, and I believe that interacting with fully vaccinated people will lower the chances of spreading the virus further.” 

Rachel Wahba, 30, a New York City-based certified life coach, agrees. 

“I would be more likely to seek services from a context where all staff members are required to be vaccinated,” Wahba said. “In [healthcare] settings, where it’s likely we’ll be in close contact, I feel more comfortable knowing they’re less likely to carry the virus.”

Some consumers take it further, refusing to see providers who don’t mandate vaccination.

“I will ONLY go to healthcare providers where everyone working there is vaccinated,” said Shaun Eli Breidbart, 60, a stand-up comedian based in the New York City area.

In researching a particular provider, Breidbart learned that the medical staff were vaccinated but that office staff were not. He said thanks but no thanks. 

“Why would I go somewhere where even the doctor is not taking actions to protect the health of his [or] her patients?” Breidbart said.

Others also see mandating vaccinations as a sign of a provider’s commitment to their patients. 

Ayana King, CEO and founder of Maximum Communications, LLC, says her entire household got sick with Covid-19 in March and she still faces residual health issues. She’s afraid of what might happen if she gets infected again. 

“I think all healthcare providers have a duty to keep their patients safe,” King said. “Vaccines are a good starting point.” 

Amy Wampler, CEO of Spartan Mechanical, an Indiana-based HVAC contractor, thinks providers who don’t get vaccinated are taking “a selfish approach” and would stay away from them.

Some people are avoiding care altogether because of concerns that staff may not be vaccinated. 

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, 57, a widow from rural Arkansas, rescheduled her colonoscopy until after the provider’s vaccine mandate takes effect on October 1. She won’t even go near a healthcare system closer to home because they haven’t announced a vaccine mandate at all.

“I will not be going there until they get one,” Fivecoat-Campbell said.

Jayne Wallace, 65, of Sarasota, Florida, says she always asks about vaccination status before seeing a healthcare provider. 

“For that matter, I ask at restaurants as well,” Wallace said.

Before giving blood, Wallace called to ask if everyone at the site was vaccinated. “They laughed and said, ‘OMG of course!’” 

Wallace says there’s no excuse for not being vaccinated unless a real medical condition prohibits it. (In reality, there are virtually no medical conditions that warrant avoiding the Covid-19 vaccines.)

Not Everyone Agrees

Among consumers who support provider vaccine mandates, many cite concern for their own safety as well as a broader sense of purpose, such as to protect others or to hasten a return to normalcy.

But not everyone shares those concerns. 

Channing Muller, 36, a Chattanooga, Tennessee-based sales and marketing coach, says she’d prefer her providers are vaccinated but cares more that they remain masked, whether they’re vaccinated or not. 

“Masking,” Muller said, “is what we know will keep more of each person’s germs to themselves, so that is what provides me more peace of mind when visiting a doctor—or any business for that matter.”

Others don’t seem to care one way or another if their healthcare providers are vaccinated, either because they aren’t concerned for their own health or they see vaccination as a matter of personal choice.

Brandon Robert Watts, 24, a youth activist and Howard University law student based in Washington, D.C., thinks getting vaccinated is an individual decision and sees a range of factors that may influence those decisions. 

“I don’t think every unvaccinated person is trying to make a political statement against the government. Nor do I feel that they are all right-wing conservative whites or anti-government conspiracy [theorists],” Watts said. “I think a lot of people are just being cautious because the truth is we don’t know what the future holds for us in regard to this pandemic.”

But some people object outright to vaccine mandates, so much so that it would affect where they seek care.

“I would absolutely choose to go to a provider who did not insist on mandatory vaccinations,” said Michelle Maslin-Taylor, a UK-based yoga teacher. “If a provider were to require this for all staff it would show me that they do not respect individual choice and consent over one’s body and would make me question in what other ways they don’t respect and treat their staff well.” 

Can You Trust a Doctor Who Doesn’t Trust Science?

For some consumers, vaccine mandates say a lot about the provider and whether patients should trust them.  

“Science is on the side of vaccines,” said Debra Schneider, 60, the administrator for her husband’s medical office in New York. “If a healthcare worker isn’t vaccinated, then they don’t understand the science, which is scary in itself.”

Chelsea Bagley, 29, founder of Nesting Naturally based in Texas, says she trusts public health agencies who all recommend vaccination. She doesn’t understand providers who don’t. 

“If a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare worker won’t listen to the experts in this situation, I would be concerned that they’re not listening to experts, scientists, and researchers in other areas of medicine,” Bagley said. “I would not trust them with my healthcare.”

Ben Taylor, the London-based founder of remote working portal HomeWorkingClub, put it more bluntly. 

“Anti-vaxxers are not people I want anywhere near decisions about my health,” Taylor said. “How could you trust a clinician who doesn’t accept such clear data? How could you be sure their judgment on other life-or-death matters isn’t flawed?”

Melissa Kennedy, 38, marketing director for a Chicago public relations firm, says healthcare workers should be role models for patients. 

“I would be suspicious of anyone working in healthcare but rejects vaccines,” Kennedy said. “It just doesn’t compute.” 

Fivecoat-Campbell, the widow from Arkansas, takes a similar stance. 

“If these healthcare workers don’t believe in the science of vaccines,” she said, “What are they doing in healthcare?”

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