Operation Warp Speed and the subsequent vaccine rollout already have faced enough challenges, but now a rather surprising twist has joined the roster.

A startling number of American front-line healthcare workers are refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

A Los Angeles Times story reports that up to 50% of front-line workers in California’s Riverside County wouldn’t take the vaccine, according to Riverside County Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari, MPH, as hospital staff in Southern California intensive care units struggle in the face of a rising coronavirus wave.

In Texas, a doctor at a Houston hospital told NPR earlier this month that half the nurses there would not get the vaccine, citing political reasons. In Ohio, according to Gov. Mike DeWine, an estimated 60% of Ohio nursing home employees have refused the vaccine already.

The lack of trust in the vaccine is largely rooted in persistent conspiracy theories and disinformation on social media, with about 20% of Americans certain they will not change their minds about refusing the vaccine, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

With meaningful herd immunity pegged at 70% to 90% vaccination rates, according to health experts, this development is concerning.

A high incidence of refusal among healthcare workers could certainly sway more of the general population away from the vaccine. And that’s no good, Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch told the Times.

“Our ability as a society to get back to a higher level of functioning depends on having as many people protected as possible,” he said.

The problems accompanying the vaccine rollout don’t need any more help.

Only 2.6 million people had been vaccinated as of Wednesday, with an NBC News report on Tuesday concluding that, at this rate, it would take almost 10 years to inoculate enough Americans to gain control of the pandemic.

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