Investigation: Thousands of GA health care workers unvaccinated against COVID-19

ATLANTA — Hospital workers here in Georgia were some of the first to be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but a Channel 2 Action News investigation finds that thousands of these workers have chosen not to be vaccinated.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray reached out to all the major metro Atlanta hospitals, but several hospitals refused to provide us with vaccination data.

One Atlanta hospital, Piedmont Hospital, will soon require employees to get vaccinated.

Starting Sept. 1, every doctor, executive and new employee must have a COVID-19 vaccine. Other employees will follow at a later date.

We reached out to all the major area hospitals.

At Grady Memorial Hospital, 57% of the staff are vaccinated.

Emory Healthcare operates 11 hospitals, including Emory Hospital and Emory Midtown, and said two-thirds of its medical staff have been vaccinated.

Northeast Georgia Health Systems tells us the vaccination rates at its 6 facilities range from 42% to 61%. Altogether, only about half of its staff has gotten vaccinated.

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“You know, I think we see kind of the worst of the worst, but I think we also kind of all have our own opinions of that stuff,” Kaylee Sinkoe said.

Sinkoe is a traveling nurse currently working in the ICU at Piedmont Hospital and is one of those health care workers who has chosen to wait on getting vaccinated

“I do have some history of reactions to vaccines and things like that, so it makes me a little apprehensive,” Sinkoe said.

Several hospital groups, including Wellstar, Northside and Piedmont, refused to provide us information on their staff vaccination rates.

A Northside spokesperson told us “because a vaccination is a medical procedure, employee medical information has to be protected.”

But University of Georgia Epidemiologist Dr. Mark Ebell counters that it is important safety information that patients have a right to know.

“If I’m getting an elective procedure at a hospital and I have a choice of hospitals, I’m going to go where I’m going to be safest,” Ebell said.

We also asked if the hospitals will require the vaccine.

Of the hospitals we surveyed, so far only Piedmont has plans to do that.

“I don’t see any alternative if they want to increase those vaccination rates but to mandate it. People can then decide where they want to work,” Ebell said.

Not only are some of these hospitals not reporting vaccination rates for staff to us, but it’s also only voluntary right now for them to share that information with the federal government.