Written By: Daniel Cobb, Managing Editor
Date Updated: August 24th, 2021

Quick Facts: 

  • Only 50% of all caregivers for the elderly are fully vaccinated, and more than 1 in 5 haven’t started the vaccination process.
  • 25% of the caregivers who haven’t started the vaccination process plan on remaining unvaccinated indefinitely.
  • Distrust of the COVID vaccines is the most common reason for refusing vaccination, while 1 in 10 vaccine-hesitant caregivers believe that COVID-19 is a hoax.
  • In response to vaccine mandates, 54% of vaccine-hesitant caregivers would rather lose their job than get vaccinated. 
  • More than 50% of unvaccinated caregivers don’t wear masks when in public or around at-risk individuals.

Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases from the Delta variant, tensions are again rising high between those who view the COVID-19 pandemic as a serious threat and those who think that the pandemic is overblown. While those who accept COVID-19 as dangerous are often taking every possible precaution to avoid catching and spreading the virus, others believe that the government and employers should not be mandating masks, vaccinations, and other precautions.

When it comes to caregivers for the elderly, the stakes are incredibly high, since seniors face the highest risk from COVID-19, and not all seniors are fully vaccinated. While 81% of seniors are fully vaccinated, there are roughly 10 million seniors who aren’t and face the risk of serious health problems or even death from COVID-19. Dr. Aaron Glatt, MD, MACP, FIDSA, FSHEA says, “Not only do unvaccinated caregivers present an increased risk to themselves, their family members, and their own social circles, but they also bring increased risk to the people that they care for.”

As an advocate for the health and well-being of seniors, Caring.com is committed to raising awareness of how serious the issue of unvaccinated caregivers is, as well as shedding light on why more than 20% are still unvaccinated – with many planning on staying that way. With the FDA’s full-approval of the Pfizer vaccine, Caring.com strongly believes caregivers should get vaccinated to protect those they care for, themselves and their communities.

To that end, Caring.com partnered with Pollfish to survey 1,000 private caregivers and 1,000 professional caregivers to find out their vaccination status, plans for vaccination in the future, reasons for remaining unvaccinated, and planned responses to vaccine mandates. This survey was launched on August 9th, 2021 and was completed on August 11th, 2021 (12 days before the FDA officially approved the Pfizer vaccine). 

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 dthe 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. 
Infographic illustrating the key data points from the survey referenced in this article.

1 in 4 of Caregivers Who Aren’t Vaccinated Plan on Remaining Unvaccinated 

Only 50% of caregivers are fully vaccinated, and more than 20% of caregivers haven’t started the vaccination process. 

When asked about their vaccination status, only half of all caregivers said that they were fully vaccinated. An additional 1 in 3 caregivers can be defined as “partially vaccinated” (meaning that they have received their first dose, or have booked an appointment to get the shot). This leaves more than 20% of caregivers who haven’t taken any steps towards vaccination.

Have you been vaccinated with an approved covid-19 vaccine?

Of those who haven’t begun the vaccination process, 25% have no plans on getting vaccinated in the future. 

Of the 22% of caregivers that haven’t started the vaccination process, more than 1 in 4 said that they don’t plan on getting vaccinated at any point in the future. Overall, only 16% of unvaccinated caregivers plan to get vaccinated in the next six weeks, while 18% plan to get vaccinated in the next 6 months.

Do you plan on getting a covid vaccine in the future?

54% of Unvaccinated Caregivers Would Rather Lose Their Job Than Get Vaccinated 

Only 23% of caregivers said they would be willing to get vaccinated if asked by their employer.

In light of the FDA’s recent full approval of the Pfizer vaccine, and the new vaccine mandate for caregivers who work in nursing homes, many senior living and senior care providers are requiring their caregivers to get vaccinated. With even more employers likely to follow, vaccine-hesitant caregivers are facing a difficult decision. 

Based on the data in this survey, many vaccine-hesitant caregivers may have already been motivated by the mandates to get the shot – 28% of caregivers have begun but not finished the vaccination process (suggesting that they recently began this process) and 16% of the unvaccinated caregivers say they are planning on getting vaccinated in the next 6 weeks. 

Heather Keita, a live-in caregiver for a senior couple, is one of the 23% of unvaccinated caregivers who would be willing to get the shot if it became mandatory in her situation. “I am not against them, and if it came down to becoming mandatory that I receive my vaccine, I would bite the bullet and go ahead with it.” Even though she would prefer not to get vaccinated, she goes on to say, “If it came down to it, I believe I would get vaccinated though as my occupation requires me to care more about who I am taking care of, than my own opinions.”

Not all unvaccinated caregivers share this sentiment – in fact, the majority would rather risk losing their job than get the vaccine. Overall, 54% of unvaccinated caregivers indicated they wouldn’t be willing to take the vaccine if required by their employer, while 23% were undecided. Of those 54% who would refuse vaccine mandates, half would also not submit to increased testing. 

At risk of being fired or furloughed, How would you respond to vaccine mandates?

36% of Unvaccinated Private Caregivers Don’t Believe the COVID-19 Vaccines Are Safe

Nearly 30% of all unvaccinated caregivers doubt the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines. 

Caregivers who are not vaccinated and have no plans to get vaccinated in the next 6 weeks (defined as vaccine-hesitant caregivers) were asked to list their top reasons why they have chosen to forgo the immunization. Overwhelmingly, the largest concern was around the safety and testing of the COVID-19 vaccines. Nearly 1 in 3 vaccine-hesitant caregivers feel that the shots have not been sufficiently tested and doubt whether they are safe. Additionally, 22% say they don’t feel that the COVID-19 vaccines are actually effective, further reducing their incentive to get vaccinated.

The overall percentage of those with concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines is significantly higher than those who tend to distrust all vaccines – 14% of all vaccine-hesitant caregivers don’t trust the safety of vaccines in general, compared to 30% who do not trust the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. Many more were also more likely to doubt the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines compared to the effectiveness of vaccines in general (22% vs. 15%). 

Interestingly, this doesn’t hold true for professional caregivers – the number of professional caregivers that distrust the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines is comparable to the number of professional caregivers that also distrust the effectiveness and safety of vaccines in general.

Conversely, private caregivers tend to be much less trusting of the COVID-19 vaccines than they are of vaccines in general. Only 12% said that they have concerns about the safety of vaccines in general, while three times that number said they are concerned specifically about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.  

Caregivers Vaccine Hesitancy: Vaccine safety and effectiveness

1 out of 10 vaccine-hesitant caregivers don’t believe that COVID-19 is a threat to themselves or the elderly whom they care for.

One of the most concerning data points to come out of this survey is the significant portion of unvaccinated caregivers that refuse to accept the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. 11% of surveyed caregivers who do not plan to get vaccinated in the near future included the idea of COVID being a complete hoax as one of their primary reasons for refusing vaccination. Nearly the same percentage said COVID-19 wasn’t very dangerous or an actual health crisis – likely believing that governments and the media have overblown the seriousness of the situation.

Professional caregivers were slightly more likely to buy into the notion that COVID-19 is a complete hoax than private caregivers (12% vs. 11%). On the other hand, private caregivers were significantly more likely than professional caregivers to believe that COVID is real – but just not as serious as the media and government claim. 12% of private caregivers said COVID isn’t a serious health crisis, while only 8% of professional caregivers said the same.

Caregivers Vaccine Hesitancy: Covid's Actual Danger

15% of vaccine-hesitant caregivers believe that antibodies from previous COVID-19 infections provide sufficient protection.

 After concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines (discussed above), the idea that a previous COVID-19 infection offers sufficient immunity is the next most commonly cited reason for remaining unvaccinated – 15% of surveyed caregivers believe that antibodies from the vaccine mean that there’s isn’t a pressing need for them to be vaccinated.

Nearly the same percentage of caregivers (14%) believe that, because the elderly that they care for are vaccinated, they don’t need to get the vaccine themselves. Private caregivers were nearly 50% more likely to cite this as a reason for remaining unvaccinated than professional caregivers. One possible reason for this might be because private caregivers are typically only caring for one or two seniors, while professional caregivers are more likely to interact with a mix of elderly that are vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Caregivers Vaccine Hesitancy: Other Reasons

The Full List of Reasons Caregivers Cite for Not Getting Vaccinated

Some of the most common and most concerning reasons for caregiver vaccine hesitancy were discussed in detail above. Below you can find all of the reasons cited along with the percentage of respondents who indicated the following as one of their primary motivations for remaining unvaccinated. 

AnswerAll CaregiversProfessional CaregiversPrivate Caregivers
Concerns about the safety and testing of COVID-19 vaccines29.1%20.8%35.6%
Concerns about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines21.9%20.1%23.3%
“I don’t need the COVID-19 Vaccine”15.0%13.8%15.8%
“I’ve already had COVID-19 and I still have antibodies”15.0%15.1%14.9%
Concerns about the effectiveness of vaccines in general14.7%20.1%10.4%
“The elderly that I care for are already vaccinated”14.4%10.7%17.3%
Concerns about the safety of vaccines in general13.6%15.7%11.9%
I have been told by a doctor that I should not be vaccinated due to a diagnosed medical condition12.2%13.8%10.9%
I just haven’t gotten around to it11.6%13.8%9.9%
I believe that COVID-19 is a hoax11.4%12.0%10.9%
I don’t believe that COVID-19 is very dangerous or an actual health crisis10.5%8.2%12.4%
None of the above8.0%8.2%7.9%

Note: Respondents were limited to 5 responses each – this helps to establish which were actually primary concerns and motivations for each respondent. 

Less Than Half of Unvaccinated Professional Caregivers Wear a Mask When in Public 

40% of all caregivers do not wear a mask when in public or around at-risk individuals.

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated caregivers were asked what other precautions they regularly take against catching and spreading COVID-19. Masking was the most commonly cited precaution (60% wear a mask), followed by socially distancing when in public and around at-risk individuals (56%).

Of particular concern, professional caregivers were less likely to take these precautions than private caregivers – only 57% wear masks in public, while 63% of private caregivers indicated that they do the same. Since professional caregivers tend to interact with a larger number of elderly individuals, the lack of masking and other precautions is worrying, especially given the surge in infections from the Delta variant.

Additional Covid Precautions: Professional vs. Private Caregivers

Unvaccinated caregivers are more than twice as likely to forego many precautions against COVID-19 as vaccinated caregivers. 

17% of unvaccinated caregivers take none of the most common precautions against COVID-19, such as masking, social distancing, and avoiding large crowds. Comparatively, only 7% of vaccinated caregivers take none of the above precautions. This worrying figure shows that unvaccinated caregivers are not only presenting more risk to the elderly they care for by refusing the vaccine, they are also more likely to forgo reasonable precautions outside of their work, further increasing the risk to the elderly.

More than half (53%) of unvaccinated caregivers don’t choose to mask when in public or around at-risk individuals, while only 34% of fully vaccinated caregivers forgo masks. This same trend holds true for other precautions: fully vaccinated caregivers are 38% more likely to socially distance than unvaccinated caregivers. 

Additional Covid Precautions: Unvaccinated vs. Vaccinated Caregivers