Disparities in willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine and attitudes towards vaccination among diverse young adults
In Fall 2020, I enrolled in an undergraduate epidemiology course taught by Professor Miranda Worthen where I had the opportunity to partake in a class project in relation to COVID-19. We conducted a cross sectional survey assessing how the pandemic affected college students and their social networks. The following semester, the professor selected a few students to work on this research study. I was fortunate to join other students and statistics professor, Dr. Charles Park, to analyze and disseminate our findings.
Within our team, we each had the chance to closely examine the various components of the cross sectional survey. I personally was interested in student’s trust levels in relation to their willingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Through this study, I wanted to evaluate how demographic factors such as race and gender influence what sources people trust for information about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Long-existing inequities in the social determinants of health have affected attitudes towards the COVID-19 vaccine and willingness to take the vaccine. We investigated sources that diverse young adults trust to provide accurate information about the vaccine. I also wanted to discuss how willingness to vaccinate among minority groups may indicate a health disparity among minority groups.
San José State University is an Asian American, Native American, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic-Serving Institution. The epidemiology students had conducted a survey in October 2020 to assess attitudes towards the COVID-19 vaccine and sources of trust in accurate vaccine information (n=402). We used regression analyses to assess differences by race, ethnicity, and other social categories in the differences of these variables.
Overall, we found that people were most likely to trust their doctor to provide accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Out of the participants, Chinese young adults reported more trust in doctors and Vietnamese young adults reported more trust in local public health officials and news media. On the other hand, Black, Latinx, and Multiracial participants had less trust in all sources compared to all Asian and White groups. Women were also less likely to have trust in these sources. Based on our analysis, we did not observe significant differences in trust levels among the participants based on sexual orientation or nativity. There were striking differences in willingness to vaccinate, with Black, Latinx, and Multiracial participants reporting less willingness (92.3%, 43.8%, 62.4% respectively reported they were either probably not or definitely not interested in receiving the vaccine) and Asian and White participants reporting more willingness (67.9% and 64.5% respectively reporting that they probably would or definitely would receive the vaccine).
As a team, we were definitely shocked by these numbers and could not help but consider the role health disparities had played during the pandemic. One of the most pressing human rights issues of our time is the equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, both in the U.S. and globally. Socially structured distrust in the vaccine is itself a human rights issue and public health has a critical role to play in redressing this patterned harm and achieving the human right to health for all.
Since this study was conducted, the Emergency Use Authorization has been granted to three COVID-19 vaccines. Other studies have demonstrated that following this authorization, there has been an increased willingness to be vaccinated among most groups and the gaps by race and ethnicity have closed. Understanding the relative degree of trust in different sources helps to provide accurate information about these vaccines and may improve vaccination uptake.
After little was known about COVID-19 vaccinations, time has passed and we have collected interesting data surrounding different aspects of vaccine hesitancy. This section will discuss vaccine hesitancy rates, possible influencers, attitudes surrounding being vaccinated, and much more.