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A Houston doctor said more than half the nurses in his unit won't get the COVID-19 vaccine for political reasons

Business Insider logo Business Insider 12/16/2020 horecchio@businessinsider.com (Haven Orecchio-Egresitz)
Getty/David Greedy © Getty/David Greedy Getty/David Greedy
  • A Houston doctor spoke to NPR about the availability of COVID-19 vaccines for healthcare workers.
  • His hospital will receive the vaccination next week, but more than half of the nurses in his unit won't take it for reasons that are "politically motivated," he said. 
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci previously said that he's worried that healthcare workers will decline to get vaccinated and discourage others from doing so.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

A Houston critical care doctor told NPR that more than half of the nurses in his unit won't get the COVID-19 vaccination. 

Dr. Joseph Varon of the United Memorial Medical Center learned from the mayor that staff at his hospital will have access to vaccinations next week.

While some staff were "very happy," and had been annoyed that they weren't included in the first round of vaccinations this week, others have no plan to be inoculated, Varon told NPR. 

"At the end of the day, like I have said before, coronavirus has become a political toy," he said. "Most of the reasons why most of my people don't want to get the vaccine are politically motivated." 

There have been 24,648 COVID-19 deaths in Texas, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

Each day, United Memorial Medical Center, a small community hospital, admits at least six new critically ill patients, some of whom have traveled more than 10 hours from the hard-hit El Paso for access to treatment, Varon said.

Critical care staff at the hospital are so exhausted that some break down in tears in the middle of the day. 


Gallery: This Many People Need to Get Vaccinated to End COVID, NIH Director Says (Best Life)

The arrival of the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine marks the beginning of hope in the US, and healthcare workers are among the highest priority to receive inoculations. 

Beth Sum, RN, receives a COVID-19 vaccination at University of Louisville Hospital. Jon Cherry/Getty Images © Jon Cherry/Getty Images Beth Sum, RN, receives a COVID-19 vaccination at University of Louisville Hospital. Jon Cherry/Getty Images

It's not over yet

Varon, though, is worried that some people see the vaccine as the end of the pandemic, which is not the case.

A significant portion of the population will have to receive the vaccination before there starts to be an effect, he said. 

"The vaccine will work, but it's going to take time," he said. "It's going to be months, and more months, and probably even years before everybody gets vaccinated."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, previously said that he's worried that healthcare workers will decline to get vaccinated and discourage others from doing so, too. 

"My primary biggest fear is that a substantial proportion of the people will be hesitant to get vaccinated," Fauci said.

Varon told NPR he trusts the vaccine and will receive it next week. He's encouraging others to also get vaccinated and stay vigilant about social distancing and safety in the coming weeks.

"Remember, we have Christmas coming up," Varon told NPR. "I am now seeing the effects of what happened on Thanksgiving. We're going to have the same after Christmas because people are not understanding." 

Listen to Varon's full interview on NPR 

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