Coronavirus: Fewer than 50% of eligible Mercy Health Springfield staff want vaccine, health system president says

More staff is expected to opt-in now that the holidays are over

Less than 50% of Mercy Health Springfield employees who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine right now want it, according to the health system’s president.

At Monday’s Springfield Rotary meeting, Mercy Health — Springfield President Adam Groshans said there has been some “reluctance to take the vaccine in the healthcare community.”

Groshans said Mercy Health Springfield employee interest in the vaccine is around the “upper 40th percentile.” That’s almost identical to what officials at Rocking Horse Community Health Center said last week when they began their staff vaccinations.

“One of the things we believe is a factor is you have a little bit of the guinea pig mentality of, ‘I want to see how it goes for the first phase,” and the other factor is the holidays. You had some folks who said, ‘I really don’t want to take it right before Christmas, right before the New Year’s break if I have a reaction,” Groshans said.

Groshans said with the holiday now over, Mercy Health is hoping to see the number of staff interested in the vaccine rise, officials also plan to communicate the importance of the vaccine to employees.

“We are also communicating with our staff that there is going to come a point where this vaccine, if not needed and accepted by our staff, will need to be reallocated elsewhere,” Groshans said. “So they may not get the luxury of procrastination on that. That is one of those things that we will continue to echo because we do have folks that have voiced that they want to do it, that they intend to do it, but they just haven’t done it yet.”

On Wednesday, Mercy Health spokesperson Nanette Bently said the health system has established a new “opt-in process” to determine employee interest in receiving the vaccination.

“As with any new process, it takes time to establish awareness of it and we are providing education on how and where to access the portal to be sure all of our employees tell us their preference,” Bently said in a statement. “Eighty percent of employees who have visited the portal to access the process have opted in to have their vaccination.”

The low interest in vaccine comes as those who were the first vaccinated at Springfield Regional Medical Center will receive their second and final shots this week, Groshans said, making them among the first in the state to become fully vaccinated.

Springfield Regional Medical Center was among the first 10 hospitals in Ohio to receive the first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 15. The Pfizer vaccine, and the other COVID-19 vaccine on the market made by Moderna, require two doses roughly 20 days apart.

This week, Groshans said SRMC is expecting to do more than 600 vaccines, with about 100 of those being first-round shots and the rest being second.

“It certainly has been an exhaustive process but it has gone very well so far,” Groshans said.

Jennifer Kunkle, a cardiovascular ICU unit nurse who has worked at SRMC for the past 16 years, was the first SRMC employee to receive the vaccine in Clark County. She received her second dose on Tuesday morning.

“It’s exciting. I feel very blessed to have been able to get this vaccination, especially as quickly as this hospital was able to give it to us,” Kunkle said.

Kunkle said she got the vaccine in hopes of being a good example for the community and for her family. Now, she is asking other employees to step up and do the same.

“Read the research on it. It’s a good vaccine, it was made quickly but the documentation and the technology is not new, it’s been around since the late ‘80′s. This is a wonderful new vaccination, yes, but we need more people to take it in order for it to work,” Kunkle said. “I encourage everyone to get it and not let the opportunity pass.”

Clark County had 9,624 cases of the coronavirus as of Thursday afternoon, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The county has recored 244 deaths and 12 probable deaths, as of Thursday.

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