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Nearly a third of New York health care workers so far eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine are taking a wait-and-see approach, eschewing the shots at least for the time being, city and state officials said Tuesday.
Frontline medical workers make up the majority of the group electing to go unvaccinated, with the jabs not yet available to the general public.
“Around 30 percent is accurate,” said Mitchell Katz, head of the city-run Health and Hospitals system, of the current refusal rate.
“I think you have to, as the mayor has explained, have empathy, and really think about what the experience has been of a Health and Hospital nurse over the last 10 months,” added Katz, speaking during a press briefing with Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Not everybody has to live the life of the nurse who’s told today this is what works, and then tomorrow, ‘Oh no, we’ve learned something more.’”
Speaking during his own briefing later in the day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported a similar refusal rate.
“We expect about a 70 percent acceptance rate of the vaccine,” he said, leaving a roughly 30 percent refusal rate.
“Federal officials will say 70 to 90. I don’t think you ever get near 90. I think if I was offering to give away cash to New Yorkers, I don’t think you’d have a 90-percent acceptance rate,” he added with a laugh.
“A 30 percent refusal [or] 25 percent refusal is what we expect to see from the health care community.”
Cuomo did not completely rule out the possibility of trying to compel health care workers to take the vaccine due to the nature of their jobs, but said that such a tack would almost certainly provoke a legal battle — and that it may not even be necessary.
“There is a complicated legal question as to whether or not you can mandate a person take a vaccine,” he said. “But besides the legal question, we haven’t gotten there yet because I don’t know that it is going to be an issue.”
De Blasio said that he expects to see at least some of the holdouts come around once they see that the vaccine is safe and effective
“So many people have gotten the vaccine now who had a very good experience with it,” he said. “The more people see that, the more they feel it, I think you’ll see that hesitancy reduce. But in the meantime, we’re going to keep educating people, keep giving those positive examples, keep answering questions.”
A pair of nurses at city-run Coney Island Hospital explained to The Post on Tuesday their reasons for declining the vaccine when it was offered to them.
“I’ve held off so far, the main reason being I already had COVID,” said one nurse, who declined to give her name.
“I think that’s true of a lot of the staff here, because we tend to work with lower-income members of the population who were most susceptible to having COVID. There are some staff who are just unwilling to take the vaccine because they don’t trust it, but I don’t know if that’s true in this hospital more than any other hospital.”
Another nurse, who also asked that her name be withheld, said that she was open to getting the vaccine after seeing the early results.
“I’m holding off on getting the vaccine because I want to see how this plays out first,” she said. “I don’t entirely trust the science behind it, and that’s my right.
“I also don’t have as much one-on-one contact with patients as some of the other nurses here,” she noted. “I work mainly at a desk, so for me it’s not as critical as it is for some. If I [were] working in the ER for example, I would likely bite the bullet and get the vaccine.”
A survey conducted in October — prior to the vaccines’ approval — found that about half of New Yorkers were wary about the jabs.
But a nationwide survey released last month found that 71 percent of Americans would “definitely or probably” get the vaccine once available to them.