Study Finds COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in Young Adults May Obstruct Herd Immunity

The research team analyzed data from the Household Pulse Survey in March 2021, which is an online nationally representative sample of the population conducted by the US Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics and other agencies.

A recent study from the University of California, San Francisco found that approximately 1 in 4 unvaccinated people between 18 and 25 years of age reported that they “probably will not” or “definitely will not” get the COVID-19 vaccination, even though this demographic group is more likely than other age groups to transmit COVID-19.

The research team analyzed data from the Household Pulse Survey in March 2021, which is an online nationally representative sample of the population conducted by the US Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics and other agencies.

There were 5082 respondents, and 83% reported that they had not been vaccinated, whereas 10% said they definitely will not get the vaccine and 14% said they probably will not.

“Young adults who have had COVID, regardless of symptoms, may be vulnerable to long-term complications and debilitating symptoms that may include respiratory difficulties, loss of smell and brain fog, often referred to as ‘long COVID.’ Estimates range from 10 to 50 percent for long COVID symptoms, which is a serious concern for young adults given their high infection rates and low vaccination rates,” said lead author Sally Adams, PhD, RN, in a press release. “Prompt vaccinations could help limit the further development of virulent variants and infection rates among the vulnerable and unvaccinated.”

More than half of the unvaccinated respondents who said they would definitely not/probably not get the vaccine also said they were concerned about possible adverse effects (AEs). Meanwhile, the other half said they plan to wait and see whether the vaccine was safe and may get it at a later date. Within this group, one-third said they do not trust the vaccine, of whom fewer than 1 in 10 said they probably will get the vaccine, according to the results.

Senior author Charles Irwin Jr., MD, noted that the recent growth of heart inflammation in teens and young adults seen in the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines may have boosted the fear of getting vaccinated.

“It’s important to note that the rate of heart inflammation in young people who have been vaccinated is only slightly higher than in young people who have not been vaccinated. In most cases, symptoms are mild and resolve with minimal treatment,” Irwin said in the press release. “As a result, the majority of providers support the CDC and other advisory bodies that continue to recommend the vaccine for everyone age 12 or older.”

The researchers recommend public education campaigns to continue addressing these kinds of concerns about vaccine safety and AEs.

“Education and public health messaging encouraging young adult vaccination is needed, ideally harnessing social media and key influencers, including clinicians who have a key role in reducing vaccine hesitancy in youth and adult patients,” Irwin said in the press release.

REFERENCE

Vaccine hesitancy in young adults may hamper herd immunity. UCSF. July 14, 2021. Accessed July 15, 2021. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2021/07/420991/vaccine-hesitancy-young-adults-may-hamper-herd-immunity