OHA data shows low vaccination rates in some health care professions

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) released data detailing the vaccination rates in Oregon’s health care workforce. Currently, a statute in Oregon prohibits hospitals from mandating their employees get vaccinated, which is leading to lower vaccination rates among some health care professionals. 

 

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Below is a graph by OHA comparing health care worker and general population vaccination rates by age. 

 

Image: Oregon Health Authority

 

Robb Cowie, communications director at OHA, said dentists, medical doctors, and nurse practitioners have high rates of vaccination. According to the data, around 94% of dentists, 87% of medical doctors, and 79% of nurse practitioners are vaccinated. 

On the other end of the spectrum, the data shows 45% of chiropractic assistants in Oregon are vaccinated. Chiropractors are at 50% and advanced emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are at 56%. 

Overall, only 70% of health care workers in Oregon have initiated vaccination with at least one shot. All data is recent as of July 3, 2021. 

Cowie said OHA conducted this research because of how much Oregonians depend on their health care workers during the pandemic and the detriment to risking their health. 

“We are talking about health care workers who are on the front lines. We know that as infection rates and hospitalizations in some parts of the state are going down, we [also] know that in other parts of the state we are seeing low vaccination rates, increasing infection rates, and increasing hospitalizations. We need every health care worker we can on the front lines because the pandemic is not over. We can’t afford for health care workers to get sick and we don’t want that to happen. We need health care workers to serve patients.”

Cowie said the statute, which prohibits mandatory vaccinations for health workers, can be overturned by the legislature, or OHA could issue a rule overriding the statute and requiring vaccinations for all health care workers. 

The data has opened up conversations about how to get more health care workers vaccination including a potential rule initiation according to Cowie. However, they are just starting conversations with stakeholders, including the licensing board, to discuss what actions should be taken. Cowie said OHA is open to driving vaccination rates up in whatever way possible and is interested in supporting efforts to do so. 

The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS) released a statement encouraging the legislature or OHA to do something to address the statute. Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of OAHHS, said:

“As the number of hospitals and health systems requiring COVID-19 vaccination for employees continues to grow across the U.S., here in Oregon we can’t even have the conversation. Ensuring health care workers are vaccinated protects vulnerable patients, visitors, and coworkers. It is unconscionable to leave tools on the table during a global pandemic. It’s well past time for state leaders to address this misguided policy.”