Written By: Daniel Cobb, Managing Editor
Date Updated: September 9th, 2021

Quick Facts

Despite the FDA’s Full Approval of the Pfizer Vaccine: 

  • 1 in 3 unvaccinated caregivers refuses the shot, up from 1 in 4 prior to the announcement (19% increase). 
  • 35% of vaccine-hesitant caregivers doubt the safety of the Covid vaccines, up 20% from before the announcement. 
  • 14% of vaccine-hesitant caregivers believe that COVID-19 is a hoax – a small increase from the 11% prior to the FDA’s announcement. 
  • Fewer caregivers plan on complying with employer mandates – only 20% indicate they would get the shot if required.

According to the recent survey released by Caring.com, concerns about the safety of the vaccine were the number one reason why vaccine-hesitant caregivers haven’t decided to get the shot. When the above-referenced survey was conducted, the FDA had yet to fully approve any COVID-19 vaccines – lack of full approval was one of the main reasons many gave for doubting its safety.

Fast forward just over a week later, and the FDA fully approved the Pfizer vaccine. In light of this development, Caring.com partnered with Pollfish to run the same survey again to gauge whether more caregivers were willing to trust the safety of the vaccine and start getting vaccinated.

Unfortunately, what the survey uncovered is that not only have vaccine-hesitant caregivers failed to respond favorably to the announcement, more have turned against the vaccine and are less trusting of its safety. Jennifer Avila, Executive Director at Custom Home Care, relates her experience after a five-month journey to achieve 100% vaccine compliance in her Chicago-based home care agency. “Because this is a fear-based decision, the FDA approval really hasn’t changed the fear of the vaccine. Vaccine-hesitant caregivers don’t understand the science behind how the vaccines work, and they often come from socio-economic groups that already have a distrust of the medical system or the government.”  

Since many caregivers are still willing to put the seniors they care for at-risk, mandates are becoming the only remaining way to convince vaccine-hesitant caregivers to get the shot. Avila highlights the need for caregivers to be fully vaccinated, “Seniors are our most vulnerable population for COVID-19, and when we are delivering care for seniors, we can’t be socially distanced. We have to be right there, very close. It’s very personal care that we are delivering to seniors. So we made the decision to mandate the vaccine, and it took that mandate to really convince many of our caregivers to get the vaccine.”

Unfortunately, mandates present another problem. Avila found that some caregivers are so afraid of the vaccine that they would rather quit their job or work in a different industry, but this only adds to the staffing shortage that existed pre-pandemic. “What we find for seniors is that their options are so much more limited. Many senior living communities, such as nursing homes, are experiencing crisis staffing levels, so the quality of healthcare is really at risk.” Avila continues, “The demand hasn’t changed – the demand is still for quality, vaccinated, safe care. But the mandates and the fear of the vaccines are reducing the already strained supply of healthcare workers.”

There is a solution, but it’s not quick and it’s not easy. What Avila found in achieving 100% vaccine compliance was that “it requires a lot of one on one conversations with knowledgeable, educated healthcare professionals. We spent the time to talk with caregivers about their fears and related our experiences with getting the vaccine ourselves.”

Not only do the results of the survey detailed below reinforce the necessity of mandating vaccinations for caregivers, but also the need to compassionately and carefully implement these mandates. As Avila found, compassionate implementations and individual conversations can lead to more caregivers getting the vaccine thereby reducing staffing shortages and minimizing the stress for seniors. 

Methodology 

For this study, Caring.com again partnered with Pollfish, a leading online survey platform, to survey 2,000 caregivers (1,000 private and 1,000 professional). This survey was conducted between August 26th and 28th, 2021 – 3 days after the FDA announced its full approval of the Pfizer vaccine. The original survey referenced on this page was conducted between August 9th and 11th, 2021 (12 days before the FDA’s announcement). 

Note: For the purposes of this survey, several key terms are defined below:

  • Private Caregiver: Someone who regularly provides care for an individual(s) over the age of 55, but does not do this as their primary job/means of income. 
  • Professional Caregiver: Someone who regularly provides care for individuals over the age of 55 as their primary job/means of income. 
  • Unvaccinated Caregiver: A caregiver who hasn’t taken any concrete steps towards vaccination.
  • Partially-Vaccinated Caregiver: A caregiver who has received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, or has an appointment to do so. 
  • Vaccine-Hesitant Caregiver: A caregiver who hasn’t been vaccinated and does not plan on being vaccinated in the next six weeks.

After Full FDA Approval, 19% More Unvaccinated Caregivers Decide to Refuse the Shot

The FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine hasn’t motivated caregivers to take concrete steps towards vaccination. 

While it’s expected that the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine would take more time to increase the number of fully vaccinated caregivers, the fact that it has not motivated caregivers to take concrete steps towards full vaccination is concerning. Overall, there is no substantial shift in the number of fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, or unvaccinated caregivers between the survey completed before the FDA’s announcement and the survey completed afterward.

Chart showing the vaccinated status of caregivers

Nearly 1 in 3 unvaccinated caregivers now plan on continuing to refuse the shot.

Prior to the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine, 1 in 4 unvaccinated caregivers said they were planning to refuse the shot indefinitely. After the FDA’s announcement, this number has risen by 19% to nearly 1 in 3 (31%) who plan to remain unvaccinated. Based on this data, mandates may be the only remaining step that will significantly impact caregivers’ decision to get the shot.

Chart showing the future plans of caregivers as it relates to vaccination

20% More Vaccine-Hesitant Caregivers Now Doubt the Safety of the Vaccine

Up from 29%, 35% of vaccine-hesitant caregivers now doubt the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Counter-intuitively, more caregivers are saying they distrust the safety and effectiveness of the COVID vaccines now, than prior to the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine. 20% more doubt the safety of the COVID vaccines, while 13% more now doubt their effectiveness. Additionally, more caregivers also list a general distrust of vaccines as a reason for remaining unvaccinated. 

Based on her experience, Avila isn’t surprised that the FDA’s announcement hasn’t given caregivers more confidence in the vaccine’s safety: “We’ve had many months of vaccine availability. By now almost everyone has made their own personal decision about whether the vaccine is safe. The FDA’s approval has made a very small impact on everyone’s personal confidence in the safety of this vaccine.”

Chart showing unvaccinated caregivers opinions on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines

Post-FDA approval, caregivers are more willing to believe that COVID-19 is a hoax.

Another concerning trend is the increase of caregivers who completely disregard the danger of COVID-19 and don’t see the need to get vaccinated. The number of caregivers who believe that COVID-19 is a hoax has increased by 3 percentage points to 14% of vaccine-hesitant caregivers.

Chart showing caregivers who believe that COVID-19 is a hoax

Only 1 in 5 Vaccine-Hesitant Caregivers Are Now Willing to Get the Shot if Mandated by Their Employer

Down from 23%, only 20% of vaccine-hesitant caregivers are willing to comply with vaccine mandates.

While not a huge shift in the wrong direction, the fact that slightly fewer caregivers are willing to comply with mandates now than before the FDA announcement is a serious concern. “There are people who are just deciding ‘I don’t want the vaccine, I’m going to go outside of the healthcare segment,’” says Avila. “This could have very lasting issues for seniors and people seeking care, as we are experiencing a fallout from our healthcare system in general.”

Chart showing unvaccinated caregivers' response to vaccine mandates