Black Individuals Less Hesitant to Vaccinate Against COVID-19 Than White Individuals

Despite the assumption of vaccine hesitancy among Black people in the US, the present study found rapid reductions in COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among Black individuals in the US.

A new survey study suggested that the intention to vaccinate against COVID-19 in Black individuals increased more rapidly when compared to White individuals, though both groups had comparable vaccination rates earlier in the pandemic.

Investigators led by Tasleem J. Padamsee, PhD, College of Public Health at Ohio State University, believed this increase was associated with changes in beliefs about the vaccine.

Though vaccination rates continue to lower among Black individuals when compared to White individuals, the team believed this change was less likely a result of vaccine hesitancy than a myriad of other factors.

The COVID-19 virus has disproportionately affected Black individuals in the United States, with the reason often being attributed to vaccine hesitancy. Despite this, few modern studies have examined changes in hesitancy over time, which prompted the current study.

The Methods

The survey study utilized 7 waves of data from YouGov that were collected through an online panel study with a representative sample of adults in the US.

The panel study contacted participants monthly from December 2020 to June 2021, and used a sample-matching method to construct representative samples from a large online opt-in panel.

Survey questions were developed after investigators had reviewed previously used questions on vaccination and COVID-19 vaccination specifically. Survey items were taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Community Survey Question Bank, the Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) COVID-19 Survey Archive, and the University of Southern California Understanding Coronavirus in America panel surveys.

From there, vaccination intention was determined through a measure of behavioral intention which was measure on a 6-point scale. Individuals who confirmed they had already been vaccinated were coded as being “extremely likely” to be vaccinated.

The analyses in the study were also used to measure 4 beliefs on the COVID-10 vaccines, which were that they are safe, effective, necessary to protect the health of the community, and necessary to protect oneself.

Finally, the team constructed 2 mean values, which were the belief that the vaccines are safe and effective (r > .83 in all waves; baseline mean [SD] score, 3.55 [1.01]) and the belief that they provide needed protection for oneself and one’s community (r > .86 in all waves; baseline mean [SD] score, 3.74 [1.23]).

The Findings

A total of 1200 participants were included included in the study with a weighted mean age of 49.5. Among these patients, 693 (52%, weighted) were women, 107 (12.2%; weighted) were non-Hispanic Black individuals, and 921 (64.0%; weighted) were non-Hispanic White individuals.

In December 2020, investigators observed that Black and White individuals had comparable vaccination intentions. However, by March 2021, Black individuals experienced a larger increase in vaccination intention than White relative to baseline (b = 0.666; P < .001).

This increase was also seen in April 2021 (b = 0.890; P < .001), May 2021 (b = 0.695; P < .001), and June 2021 (b = 0.709; P < .001).

Additionally, the belief that the vaccines are necessary for protection also increased more among Black individuals than White individuals in March 2021 (b = 0.221; P = .01) and April 2021 (b = 0.187; P = .04).

Beliefs that the vaccines are safe and effective (b = 0.125; P < .001) and necessary (b = 0.405; P < .001) were positively associated with vaccination intention.

Despite common beliefs of vaccine hesitancy among Black people in the US, the present study found rapid reductions in COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among Black individuals in the US.

“A key factor associated with this pattern seems to be the fact that Black individuals more rapidly came to believe that vaccines were necessary to protect themselves and their communities,” the team wrote. “This research underscores the importance of ongoing research and practical efforts to ameliorate a range of barriers to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.”