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Vaccine Resistance and the Health Care Industry’s Treatment of Workers

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This story on the COVID vaccine resistance of health care workers at the bottom of the pay scale makes you want to hit your head against the wall, because how can we stop this thing if health care workers themselves don’t want to take it? And there’s plenty of stupidity here. But it’s not all stupidity. It’s that the orderlies and nurses and others at the sub-doctor level in the health care system are treated like garbage in the corporate medical system every day. They were thrown into the COVID front lines without proper protection and no one really cares about them. So they don’t trust doctors, they don’t trust the government, they don’t trust anybody. It’s a total disaster, but it’s also not that hard to be at least marginally sympathetic or at least understanding.

Critics say it is unethical to strong-arm low-paid workers into taking the vaccines, especially when there hasn’t been enough time to gather long-term safety data.

“This is a population of people who have been historically ignored, abused and mistreated,” said Dr. Mike Wasserman, a geriatrician and former president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine. “It is laziness on the part of anyone to force these folks to take a vaccine. I believe that we need to be putting all of our energy into respecting, honoring and valuing the work they do and educating them on the benefits to them and the folks they take care of in getting vaccinated.”

I don’t agree with the conclusion; we should force people to take the vaccines. But Wasserman is right about the horrible treatment of these workers.

Sherry Perry, a certified nursing assistant who works in a long-term care facility near Memphis, said she had talked to many nursing assistants around the country who were skeptical. Ms. Perry, who said she would probably take the vaccine eventually, said the doubts were a rational response to the way health care workers like her had been treated for a long time.

“We are left behind in the dust — no one sticks up for us,” she said. When Ms. Perry was bedridden for weeks with a bad case of Covid-19, she said, she had to use vacation days to cover some of her time off, and a portion of her sick leave was completely unpaid.

Here you go. These workers are treated like the shit they clean up off patients with no bowel control. Why should they think their bosses have any respect for them? Why wouldn’t they just stick whatever into them? That you have all sorts of histories of sterilization and forced experimentation on Black and Latina bodies, which is who so many of these workers are, makes this all the more understandable.

And when you pay your workers next to nothing–which is a huge part of the reason why COVID has decimated nursing homes since those workers often work multiple homes so they can stay in their own home, the employer actually loses power here.

Another concern about forcing workers to get vaccinated is that it could prompt hesitant employees to resign. That’s a particular worry in long-term care, where the pandemic has exacerbated a shortage of certified nursing assistants.

“We’re having a hard time filling those roles and those positions now, and if we lose more people, then our old people are going to suffer,” said Dane Henning, director of public affairs at the National Association of Health Care Assistants.

The American health care system is a complete disaster. For obvious reason, most of the narrative on this issue revolves around the consumer. But the worker is treated even worse. And here we go. Again, disasters shine a light on preexisting inequalities and challenge society to fix them. But we won’t. Once this goes away, even the minimal attention paid to these workers disappears too. It shouldn’t. But there’s little historical evidence to suggest this will be different.

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