How to best address vaccine-hesitant Americans' concerns: 5 study insights

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Investing in grassroots community outreach and focusing on statistics that demonstrate vaccines' efficacy against COVID-19-related death could be effective ways to combat hesitancy toward the inoculations, according to two studies published Sept. 30 in JAMA Network Open.

The first study involved 13 focus groups involving 70 Los Angeles residents from Nov. 16, 2020, to Jan. 28, 2021. Twenty-four percent of participants were Black, 24 percent were Indigenous, 21 percent were Latino, 16 percent were Filipino and 14 percent were Pacific Islander. Seventy-one percent of participants were women, 56 percent lived in a high-poverty ZIP code and 49 percent were essential workers.

Three insights from the study:

  1. Seventy-seven percent of participants said it was important for all community members to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

  2. Although most participants supported the idea of widespread vaccination against COVID-19, they raised concerns regarding inequitable access, differential treatment, cost, scheduling distrust in medical institutions, the vaccines' politicization and the vaccines' connection to the pharmaceutical industry.

    "Consistent with prior COVID-19 vaccine acceptability qualitative research, we found information gaps, concerns about the vaccine's rapid development, and an absence of scientific evidence translated for diverse communities," the researchers wrote.

  3. Participants offered or endorsed the following recommendations: deploying community engagement efforts, improving empathetic bidirectional information dissemination, ensuring timely access to critical information, promoting altruistic and culturally congruent messaging, increasing accessibility through navigational and logistical vaccination support, and increasing data transparency, translation and data collection for diverse populations.

The second study was based on an online survey of 2,556 Canadians who were randomized to answer questions about the Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from March 24-30. Some received no information, some received information about the vaccines' efficacy against COVID-19 symptomatic infection, some received information about the vaccines' efficacy against COVID-19-related death, and some received information on both statistics.

Two insights from the study:

  1. Participants were more likely to say they were willing to get vaccinated when presented information about vaccines' effectiveness against COVID-19-related death.

  2. Receiving information about the vaccines' efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 infection was linked with lower likelihood of willingness.

    "Both pieces of information simply canceled each other out," the authors wrote. "This suggests that there is a need to focus communication strategies on this metric of performance rather than the arguably less important indicator of overall effectiveness at preventing symptomatic COVID-19."
 

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