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Some Nurses Hesitant As CDC Puts Health Care Workers At Top Of List For COVID-19 Vaccine

WORCESTER (CBS) - As COVID-19 patients fill Massachusetts hospitals, the promise of an approved vaccine has those closest to them preparing for immunization.

"Yesterday I got a call from one of our departments, wanted to know how they could be first in line," said Dr. Saul Weingart, Chief Medical Officer at Tufts Medical Center. "Then I got a call from another department. They said, we'd rather wait and see what happens."

Weingart is leading the effort to prepare for vaccine distribution at the hospital. "I'm expecting that I'm going to be at the front of the line," he said. "I think we want to set an example to let people know that this is important."

It was the topic of an emergency meeting of the CDC's advisory committee on vaccines, putting health care workers at the top of the list. "There are approximately 21 million health care personnel working in settings such as hospitals," said the CDC's Dr. Kathleen Dooling.

Nurse protest worcester
RN Marlena Pellegrino and fellow nurses protest outside St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester (WBZ-TV)

But that virtual discussion plays out differently in the real world. "We should know more information about it," said RN Dominique Muldoon. She and a crowd of fellow nurses stood in a protest outside St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, demanding better staffing and supplies.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association is embroiled in a contract dispute with the hospital's management, Tenet Healthcare. Asked about a potential COVID-19 vaccine, some nurses were hesitant. "Nurses don't need to be part of the experiment," said Muldoon. "I don't know about a lot of data or research," said RN Marlena Pellegrino. "I think our position at this time would be that it should be voluntary."

The Chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, said it's not just doctors and nurses who would need the vaccine. "Also technicians, food service workers, environmental service workers," he said. "Health care workers, like any other group of people, are diverse and have different views, and it's important that we build confidence in the vaccine."

Hospital officials around the state say it's unlikely that healthcare workers would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine right away, but they're hoping confidence will be high enough for people to get it willingly.

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