With healthcare workers (HCWs) on the front line of COVID-19 since the get-go, it would be natural to assume that maybe this population would be at higher risk of worse outcomes than "other people." Now, a small study conducted by researchers from six major academic medical centers finds that isn’t necessarily the case.
In fact, being a healthcare worker was not associated with having worse outcomes than other hospitalized patients with the virus, but was associated with shorter hospitalizations and less chance of ending up in the intensive care unit (ICU).
The authors did reiterate that, yes, healthcare workers are probably at higher risk of getting COVID, particularly because of "repeated and prolonged interactions with patients" who are severely infected—but even this is still scientifically unproven. What is proven is that, when correct face coverings are worn, asymptomatic and milder infections are more likely than severe infections.
The study’s patient cohort included those at least 18 years old with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis who had been hospitalized. The researchers collected data from 1,992 patients at 36 North American health centers between April 15 and June 5, 2020 and then analyzed it between September 10 and October 1, 2020. After some exclusions due to uncertainty, a total of 1,790 patients participated in the study of 127 healthcare workers and 1,663 non-healthcare professionals. A healthcare worker was defined as anyone whose responsibilities involved direct patient care.
After 3:1 propensity score matching, 122 healthcare workers were matched to 366 non-healthcare workers, for a total of 488 patients. Women were 71 or 58.2 percent of matched healthcare workers and 214 or 58.5 percent of matched non-healthcare workers. The matched healthcare workers had a mean age of 52 and matched non-healthcare workers had a mean age of 57.
The two groups, healthcare worker or not, had similar odds when it came to mechanical ventilation or death—the primary outcomes. But the healthcare workers were much less likely to go into the ICU or to be there 7 days or more, the study found.
"Secondary outcomes included individual components of the primary outcome, ICU admission, any requirement for vasopressor support, and hospital length of stay," the authors said.
Still another new study, a preprint in medRxiv, looked at how America’s healthcare workers are accepting—or not—the COVID vaccine. A team of eight researchers from four academic medical centers determined that 36 percent of their respondents would take the vaccine as soon as available, but more than half, or 56 percent, didn’t know or wanted to wait and see more data.
Following national trends, in this study, being older or having a higher level of education and income indicated higher vaccine acceptance. So did being a direct medical care provider, with that group having higher acceptance at 49 percent.
Lower acceptance was noted among healthcare workers who were:
"Snowball sampling" was used via a survey tool posted on social media at five major hospital systems, with data collected between October 7 and November 9, 2020, and 3,479 healthcare workers completed the survey.
In conclusion, the authors suggested "an important role for dissemination of information through medical agencies and professional societies to increase uptake among healthcare workers."
In related news, on January 12, 2021, physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital issued a plea on its website and in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine for medical institutions to support healthcare workers who are now "long-haulers" whose symptoms have not abated. They suggest "multidisciplinary teams at medical institutions be charged with devising back-to-work strategies for healthcare workers with long-term COVID symptoms."
And they’re asking Congress and the Biden administration to create funding for this group of COVID survivors of the "COVID war."