COVID-19: What is common for Black Americans, women and conservatives?

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Black Americans, women and conservatives are more reluctant to trust the vaccine against COVID-19.

Thirty-one percent of respondents to a survey led by Texas A&M said they do not plan to get COVID-19 vaccinated.

A survey of about 5,000 Americans shows that 31.1 percent of the U.S. population does not intend to get vaccinated against COVID-19 once the vaccine is available to them – and the likelihood of refusing vaccination is highest among black Americans, women and conservatives.

The research was led by Timothy Callaghan, assistant professor at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, with the objective of better understanding the intentions of the American public about vaccines.

The results were published in Social Science and Medicine recently.

According to the study, respondents answered a number of questions, including why they plan to get vaccinated or not, about their behaviors and attitudes towards COVID-19.

Women were 71 percent more likely not to get vaccinated, followed by blacks at 41 percent, the researchers found.

The results of the survey also showed that politics matters: each one-point rise in conservatism increases the risk of refusing to vaccinate by 18%.

In the presidential election, those who said they planned to vote for President Donald Trump – the survey was conducted in mid-2020 – were 29 per cent more likely to refuse vaccination.

The study discovered two main reasons for refusal of vaccination: safety and efficacy concerns. Reasons for refusal of vaccination, however, varied across population groups.

Female respondents, for instance, said they were reluctant because of safety issues and effectiveness, while black Americans surveyed said their reluctance stemmed from similar concerns plus a lack of financial support or health insurance.

For conservatives, Callaghan points to previous studies that have shown that these individuals, as well as medical and scientific professionals, are generally less trusting of vaccines.

The most surprising finding for Callaghan is that blacks infected with COVID-19 who die at higher rates are less likely to be vaccinated due to a combination of concerns, including safety and affordability concerns.

“This highlights the need for the medical community and policymakers to find ways to both increase confidence in the vaccine in the African American community and to ensure that it is delivered affordably,” Callaghan said.

The study authors also note that “a concerted effort” has been made by anti-vaccine advocates to target black Americans. They write that if they succeed in framing COVID-19 vaccination in terms of past medical abuses against minority groups, this could decrease the probability that the COVID-19 vaccine will be taken by racial minorities, particularly in light of recent findings highlighting the effects of peripheral trauma.

Callaghan plans to explore what kind of health interventions and health promotion efforts would be most effective in promoting the vaccine to these populations now that COVID-19 vaccine-averse populations have been identified.

In addition, he said it is important to examine the similarities and differences between populations that are generally vaccine-critical and populations that are specifically hesitant to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Reference: “Correlates and disparities of intention to vaccinate against COVID-19” by Timothy Callaghan, Ali Moghtaderi, Jennifer A. Lueck, Peter Hotez, Ulrich Strych, Avi Dor, Erika Franklin Fowler, and Matthew Motta, January 4, 2021, Social Science & Medicine.DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113638
Funding: Texas A&M Triads for Transformation grant.

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