Study: Black Americans Report High Levels of Mistrust in COVID-19 Vaccines

Skylar Kenney, Assistant Editor

Study respondents cited a distrust of the US government’s motives and transparency regarding COVID-19 and systemic racism in health care as the motivation for their distrust of the vaccines.

A new survey by the RAND Corporation found a high level of vaccine hesitancy and mistrust of COVID-19 vaccines among Black Americans, including Black health care workers. Respondents cited a distrust of the US government’s motives and transparency regarding COVID-19 and systemic racism in health care as the motivation for their distrust of the vaccines.

The study, based on a survey of 207 Black Americans from a nationally representative internet panel from November and December 2020, found that more than one-third of participants agreed or strongly agreed that they would not get a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, with an additional 25% responding that they “don’t know” whether they’ll become vaccinated. Only 40% of participants indicated an intention to get vaccinated.

Participants with occupations in health care, including health care practitioners and those in technical and support occupations, reported higher vaccine hesitancy. Forty-eight percent of participants in health care fields responded that they would not get vaccinated, compared to 32% of non-health care occupations.

Concerns among those who expressed vaccine hesitancy included an overall mistrust in the vaccine, concerns about potential adverse effects, and a lack of confidence in vaccine effectiveness and safety. The survey respondents reported higher trust in information on COVID-19 given by health care providers and public health officials than from elected officials. Further, the survey showed that participants were more likely to get the vaccine if they believed that people close to them would also get vaccinated.

“Messaging about COVID-19 vaccines should first acknowledge systemic racism as a justifiable reason for mistrust before providing transparent information about the vaccine, including specific information about efficacy and safety,” said Laura M. Bogart, the study's lead author and a senior behavioral scientist at RAND, in a press release.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents indicated that they trusted health care professionals for information about COVID-19, with higher percentages of trust in health care providers among those who said they would get vaccinated. Participants also said that public health campaigns should involve trusted community members and local organizations, and some suggested partnerships with Black celebrities.

REFERENCE

Black Americans report high levels of vaccine hesitancy [news release]. EurekAlert; March 1, 2021. Accessed March 8, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/rc-bar030121.php