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Nursing home staff in North Carolina refusing coronavirus vaccine

Coronavirus cases in North Carolina have hit record numbers, but officials there say most healthcare workers at long term care facilities don’t want the vaccine.

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — As North Carolina hits record COVID-19 cases, officials there are facing a hurdle: convincing staff at long-term care facilities to take the vaccine. 

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohen, told the Associated Press more than half of nursing home workers in the state do not want the vaccine.  

Cohen told the AP, the information is "anecdotal" but she is concerned most employees in long-term care facilities are declining to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. 

Jenne Mills, the administrator of nursing home Heritage Care of Elizabeth City, said she’s seeing something similar at her facility.  

“My residents are very willing to get it," Mills said. "I think part of that is probably the family encouraging it, and the facility is strongly encouraging. The staff? Not so much. Out of 30 employees, I’ve got 5 that want to take it.”  

Mills pointed to rampant misinformation that has spread about the coronavirus and the vaccine, as a potential reason why.

“You don’t want to wrap this up in politics, but it is," she said. "These people were hounded for so long: ‘Don’t trust it. Don’t trust it. Don’t trust it.’” 

At a press conference on Wednesday, Cohen said she’s not surprised by the reluctance.

“I think this is something we saw coming and we have been thinking about for a very long time," Cohen said.

“We have to really make sure that we understand that there are real reasons for folks to be hesitant. We need to hear those concerns, and then it is our job to provide good, accurate, scientific information about these vaccines.”    

Medical experts have said repeatedly: the vaccine relies on new technology that's based on a decade of research, and no steps were skipped during vaccine trials. 

Ultimately, experts say the shot is effective in preventing COVID-19 - which has claimed the lives of more than 350,000 Americans.

RELATED: COVID-19 Live Updates | NC passes 7,000 deaths; Virginia adds 5,226 new cases Wednesday

“We want folks to know that they were rigorously tested and have built on years of work to get these vaccines," Cohen said.

Mills said they have not administered the coronavirus vaccine at Heritage Care, just yet, but she plans to get vaccinated; and she is hoping to set an example.  

“I’m going to get it and they’ll see that I got it and I’m okay and I didn’t grow tentacles out of my head, everything’s going to be fine," Mills said. "Then at that point, I think that they’ll start going, 'Okay yeah I’ll get it.'”