A Texas A&M-led survey found that more than 31% of 5,009 Americans queried between May 28 and June 8 of last year did not intend to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
- A new survey indicates that over 31% of individuals queried had no intention of getting vaccinated against infection with SARS-CoV-2.
- According to the same source, the groups most likely to reject a COVID-19 vaccine are Black people, women, and those with conservative political leanings.
- The researchers who led the survey emphasize that policymakers must find better ways of communicating with and reassuring the public about the effectiveness and safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told The New York Times in late December of last year that he believes close to 90% of the population should acquire COVID-19 immunity to end the pandemic.
For the survey, the respondents answered a series of questions, including queries about their behaviors and attitudes related to the virus and their experiences with COVID-19.
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The research, which appears in the journal Social Science & Medicine, found that Black people, women, and those with conservative leanings were most likely to refuse vaccination.
Black respondents were 41% less likely to pursue vaccination. That is significant since numerous studies have found that people who are Black, Asian, or from minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to acquire COVID-19 and experience worse clinical outcomes.
This is often due to social, economic, and healthcare inequities experienced by these demographics in the United States and elsewhere.
The study’s authors take care to note that the Children’s Health Defense — a group known for anti-vaccine activism — have published an article that reminds Black Americans of medical abuses against them.
One example is the Tuskegee syphilis study of 1932, where Black men with syphilis were denied informed consent and treatment so doctors could research the long-term effects of the disease.
The researchers suggest that Black Americans may be swayed against receiving the vaccine due to anxieties around historical abuses in the context of medical research.
The investigators write in the study paper, “To the extent that anti-vaccine advocacy groups are successful in framing COVID-19 vaccination in terms of past medical abuses against minority groups, it could decrease the likelihood that racial minorities will pursue COVID-19 vaccination.”
Women were 71% more likely to decline being vaccinated. The study’s authors noted the statistic that women make 80% of healthcare decisions for their families, suggesting that their hesitancy may have implications for men and children as well.
Additionally, the study found that the respondents who planned to vote for Donald Trump for president in November 2020 were 29% more likely to decline to be vaccinated. Indeed, more conservative respondents were more likely to refuse the vaccine, according to the researchers.
Reasons behind vaccine decisions
The study’s authors point out that no COVID-19 vaccine had yet been released when the respondents took part in their survey. At that time, the public had less information about the safety, effectiveness, and cost of the vaccinations than they do now.
In the study, both female and Black respondents listed concerns about safety and efficacy as reasons for their vaccine hesitancy. The relatively fast pace of the COVID-19 vaccine development may have created some mistrust, the study’s authors hypothesize.
Black respondents also expressed additional worries about their lack of health insurance and ability to pay for the vaccine, despite the fact that U.S. officials have said that the COVID-19 vaccine will be free of charge and that any potential administration fees can be reimbursed to patients.
“This points to the need for the medical community and policymakers to find ways to both build trust in the vaccine in the African American community and to ensure that it is delivered affordably.”
– Timothy Callaghan, assistant professor at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health and lead author of the study
The study’s authors point out that respondents with conservative leanings were found to be less trusting of scientists and medical experts in an earlier study.
The researchers also believe President Trump’s messaging implying that the pandemic does not present a serious health threat could have also played a role in the hesitancy of this group to get the vaccine.
Researchers found that individuals who were more worried about COVID-19 and those who viewed vaccines as safe and effective were less likely to refuse the vaccination.
Additionally, researchers found that wealthier Americans and individuals who trust in experts were more likely to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
To end the pandemic, the researchers say public health workers will need to develop effective health promotion efforts to reduce the number of people refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.
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