Nearly a quarter of SoCal hospital workers still unvaccinated, federal data shows

Officials say even those in science fields can be influenced by vaccine misinformation.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Nearly a quarter of hospital workers across Southern California still haven't gotten a COVID-19 shot, according to federal data.

The federal figures self-reported by 98 hospitals across the region indicate 22% of their healthcare personnel remain unvaccinated.

This comes as Kaiser Permanente, the nation's largest nonprofit healthcare organization, said it will make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all its employees and physicians.

A similar share, about 22%, of healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Southern California still haven't gotten the COVID-19 vaccine as of the last week of July, according to the recent federal numbers and confirmed by Kaiser officials.

"We have an expectation that by Sept. 30 of this year, that all of our physicians and staff will be vaccinated," said Dr. Nancy Gin, the regional medical director for quality for Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

Reporting these numbers is optional, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services document. The term healthcare personnel includes "all paid and unpaid persons serving in a healthcare setting who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials." This may be up to interpretation by individual hospitals.

In both Los Angeles County and Riverside County, 24% of healthcare workers at reporting hospitals remain unvaccinated.

In Ventura it's 21%; in San Bernardino, 18%; and 14% in Orange County.

Hospitals in Southern California with the highest rates of unvaccinated healthcare workers include Menifee Global Medical Center and Hemet Global Medical Center in Riverside County.

Both are a part of KPC health. Dr. Sumanta Chaudhuri, the chief academic officer for KPC Health, issued a statement in response to the federal data:

"Many of our employees have chosen vaccination. We continue to encourage those who have not been vaccinated to seriously consider doing so. The vaccine is the surest safeguard against contracting COVID-19," Chaudhuri wrote.

But KPC's Orange County Global Medical Center appears to be among the hospitals with highest vaccinated healthcare employee rates, according to the HHS data.

Because the data is self-reported and optional, not all hospitals reported vaccination data and some disputed the numbers reported.

The federal data also shows about half of the personnel working at Cedars-Sinai Marina Del Rey hospital have not been vaccinated. But a Cedars-Sinai spokesperson said many of the unvaccinated include independent contractors and volunteers who haven't worked there for quite some time. Their own numbers show 78% of their employees are fully vaccinated.

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Regardless of discrepancies in some of the reporting, administrators said the numbers reveal that even healthcare workers who've seen the suffering firsthand can hesitate after being influenced by misinformation.

"That culture around perspectives on vaccination influences people. Even people who are in science fields," said Gin.

Hospitals with some of the higher vaccination rates include Lakewood Regional Medical Center, MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center and Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.

Dr. Gin said Kaiser Permanente is working with their labor partners to determine what the consequences will be if workers fail to be vaccinated. She said the goal is to protect patients but ultimately end this pandemic.

"We know this won't be the last variant that comes along. There will be others. We just don't know when that will be, but they're coming," Gin said. "And so we want to be as prepared and protected as we possibly can be in our community."
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