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In Belgium, nursing home staff (NHS) and residents were prioritised for COVID-19 vaccination. However, vaccine hesitancy may have impacted vaccination rates. In this study, a random stratified sample of NHS (N = 1142), vaccinated and unvaccinated, completed an online questionnaire on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy (between 31 July and 15 November 2021). NHS who hesitated or refused the vaccine were asked for the main reason for their hesitation/refusal. Those who hesitated, but eventually accepted vaccination, were asked why they changed their minds. Overall, 29.5% of all respondents hesitated before accepting vaccination, were still hesitating, or refused vaccination. Principal reasons were fear of unknown future effects (55.1% of vaccinated participants that hesitated and 19.5% who refused), fear of side-effects (12.7% of vaccinated participants that hesitated and 12.2% who refused), and mistrust in vaccination (10.5% of vaccinated participants that hesitated and 12.2% who refused). For vaccinated participants who hesitated initially, protecting the vulnerable was the main reason they changed their minds. Given this degree of fear and proposals to mandate vaccination among healthcare workers, communicating with NHS on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine should be prioritised.

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Research Unit of Primary Care and Health, Department of General Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Liège, 4000 Liège, Belgium.