Survey: Nurses largely on board with COVID-19 vaccines but want more info on boosters, long-term safety

A new nationwide poll of nearly 5,000 nurses found widespread rates of COVID-19 vaccination as well as general support for boosters and, to a lesser extent, workplace vaccination requirements.

The majority of surveyed nurses (71%) said they need more information about vaccine boosters, followed by more on long-term effectiveness (67%) and long-term adverse effects (59%).

Among those nurses who were not vaccinated, the choice to wait for more data on safety was cited by nearly three-quarters of these respondents. Still, only 23% of nurses on both sides of the divide said a Food and Drug Administration approval would change their stance on vaccine requirements.

The poll was conducted through the COVID Vaccine Facts for Nurses initiative, which is backed by professional nursing organizations like the American Nurses Association and the American Nurses Foundation and sponsored by vaccine maker Johnson & Johnson.

Its 4,912 respondents were largely white (75%), female (89%) and employed full-time (74%). Forty-eight percent said they were aged 55 years or older, and 71% provided direct care to patients.

RELATED: KFF survey: Majority of unvaccinated adults think shot is riskier than contracting COVID-19

Respondents were spread across the country, but most often hailed from Texas (7.9%), California (5.9%), New York (5.4%), Florida (4.5%) or North Carolina (4.4%).

Across the full sample, 88% of nurses said they were vaccinated or were planning to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Of these, 85% said they would be getting a booster if it were recommended, with 11% saying they were unsure.

Fifty-nine percent of nurses said they were in favor of workplaces requiring vaccination as a term of employment, while 29% were against it and 12% said they supported it only for employees facing the public.  

Sixty-six percent of the respondents felt that they were getting enough information about the COVID-19 vaccines, while 26% said they needed more. Three-quarters said they trusted that the available vaccines were safe and effective, while 15% and 10%, respectively, said they were unsure or did not trust the vaccines.

About 80% of the respondents said they were comfortable, very comfortable or extremely comfortable educating their patients about the COVID-19 vaccines. Slightly more gave similar responses regarding their comfort recommending the vaccines to patients.

RELATED: CommonSpirit Health, Kaiser Permanente and 129 other health systems requiring mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for their workforces

"Nurses’ knowledge, coupled with their frontline experience caring for those with COVID-19 over the past 16 months, is evident by these survey findings,” said Ernest Grant, president of the American Nurses Association, in a statement. “By getting vaccinated themselves, supporting vaccine mandates and ensuring that their patients have the most accurate and reliable information possible about the COVID-19 vaccines, nurses nationwide are fulfilling their professional and ethical obligations. We continue to urge the public to follow nurses' example and get vaccinated to reduce the risk of further hospitalizations and deaths to end this pandemic.”

Vaccine acceptance among the healthcare workforce has been a hot-button issue for hospitals and other employers. A growing number of facilities have announced plans for mandatory policies in an effort to increase uptake, but some already facing staffing shortages have been hesitant to force the issue.

And although professional organizations and other industry groups uniformly lauded the shots and backed mandatory policies, labor groups representing nurses and other healthcare staff often dragged their feet or came out with conditional support.

Interest among the nurses in obtaining more information on the booster shots was also a timely trend. Late last week, government agencies gave a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines the green light for certain immunocompromised patients.

This week, the Biden administration announced that additional shots will be on the table for most Americans beginning later this year.