Racial and ethnic differences in the willingness to receive COVID-19 vaccination among the social networks of diverse public health students
The COVID-19 outbreak was something no one was expecting and escalated quickly. It came with a lot of questions and concerns for the general public, which then carried into the willingness to receive developing COVID-19 vaccines. There are a number of factors that contribute to the rates of vaccine hesitancy, including race and ethnicity. Rates varied widely amongst the different groups that were studied. In this study conducted by the Fall 2020 Epidemiology class of San Jose State University, we were also looking to understand whether differences persist among the social networks of diverse public health college students and to determine whether these students could influence peers’ willingness to receive a vaccine.
Overall, about 45% of respondents said they were probably not or definitely not willing to receive the COVID-19 Vaccine. Black, multiracial or other, and Latinx participants were less willing to receive the vaccine compared to all of the other racial/ethnic groups. In fact, 92% of the Black participants, 63% of multiracial participants, and 44% of Latinx participants answered that they probably or definitely would not get the vaccine. This can be seen visually in Figure A.
Additionally, the level of trust in family and friends to provide accurate vaccine information was lowest among Black, and Latinx participants compared to all other groups. Looking at this all together, we can see that racial minorities were least likely to be willing to receive the vaccine. These statistics do not reflect more recent vaccine hesitancy rates, as disparities have been diminishing since October 2020, and have actually increased over the past few months.
When we were first developing this question, we expected racial minority participants to have lower rates of willingness to be vaccinated, which turned out to be true. When discussing this prediction, however, we had in mind that this would mostly be due to mistrust of the healthcare system and previous events, such as the Tuskegee experiment. It was really interesting to read “Black People Need Better Vaccine Access, Not Better Vaccine Attitudes” (Boyd, 2021). Dr. Boyd makes a point of highlighting that many people in the Black community are willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and are eager to protect their health and those around them, but they do not have equal access to COVID-19 related resources. (Boyd, 2021) discusses that professionals are focusing on the wrong thing by assuming that the Black community's vaccine rates are lower due to hesitancy related to events such as the Tuskegee experiment when it really has to do a lot more with what is happening in the modern-day. By doing this, the blame is placed on the Black community rather than addressing the disparities by asking, “What can healthcare organizations do to earn the trust of the Black community?” Racism is taking place every day in the healthcare setting, with Black individuals having higher rates of many diseases and not having their health taken as seriously. They also do not have as easy access to the COVID-19 vaccine. It is mentioned in (Boyd, 2021) as well that many Black individuals do not even think of the Tuskegee experiment when they think of healthcare. It is important to address disparities to help engage more people in utilizing preventative healthcare and simply providing more access to resources, personalized to specific communities.
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.