By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — It was a big moment for thousands of Southern California doctors, nurses and frontline healthcare workers earlier this month when the COVID-19 vaccine arrived, but not everyone was excited about getting the shot.

It’s an outcome that surprised Dr. Sumanta Chaudhri Saini, KPC Health’s chief academic officer.

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“I was personally vaccinating healthcare workers, and I would say I was surprised when I would ask a healthcare worker, ‘OK we can give you the vaccine now, do you want to come in,’ and they would just say ‘No thank you, not right now.'”

So far, nearly 3,000 employees at KPC Health’s seven hospitals have rolled up their sleeves for the vaccine, but in Orange County between 30-40%  of the staff declined to be vaccinated. In Riverside County, the number is between 25-40%, and at the one hospital KPC Health runs in San Bernardino County, 40% of healthcare workers there decided not to get the vaccine.

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“One did mention that they were in an immune-compromised state,” Chaudhri Saini said. “They had inflammatory bowel disease, and they felt that they were worried that taking the vaccine might somehow worsen their condition, and I tried to allay their fears but they said that they just wanted to see how things went and over some time would reconsider taking the vaccine.”

She said she hopes that those who have not yet been vaccinated choose to get the shot, since she said the best way to communicate to staff and the public that the vaccine is safe is for healthcare workers to get vaccinated.

“We also have been giving information about the type of vaccine that it is which is a MRNA vaccine and kind of trying to educate as to why some of the greatest fears — mainly people are worried that this is going to be incorporated into their own DNA and then somehow cause mutations and that kind of thing — why that’s actually not possible,” Chaudhri Saini said. “And we do have our infectious disease experts and other physicians and clinical folks helping to disseminate that information.”

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Vaccines are not mandated for employees at KPC Health’s seven hospitals, but are strongly recommended.