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Hispanics and black Americans have experienced higher rates of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 than white Americans. A new Penn State study analyzed data collected when COVID-19 vaccines first became available to determine whether these racial and ethnic differences are associated with vaccine hesitancy. Among their findings, the team found that the disparity between black and white adults in the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine may be largely due to anti-vaccine beliefs among black adults. In contrast, the team found that US-born Hispanic adults were less hesitant about the vaccine than US-born white adults.

According to lead researcher Michelle Frisco, department chair and professor of sociology and demography, previous studies show that black adults are consistently more hesitant about the vaccine than white adults, while evidence of differences between whites and Hispanics in vaccine hesitancy is mixed. .

“We wanted to examine racial and ethnic differences in hesitancy regarding the COVID-19 vaccine when the vaccines were deployed in the US, and the underlying reasons for these differences, so that we could determine whether different public health messages are needed for different racial/ethnic groups.”

Frisco, who is also a fellow at the Population Research Institute, and her research team analyzed representative data from nearly 2,000 adults who participated in a survey conducted by Elite Research during the first three months of 2021. The survey covered experiences with COVID-19, including diagnosis, preventive behaviors, vaccine hesitancy, and whether participants had friends or family members who contracted or died from COVID-19.

According to Frisco, this is the first nationally representative study to distinguish between US-born and foreign-born Hispanic adults, groups that differ from each other on many factors that may influence vaccine hesitancy. The results of the study were published recently in the journal Social sciences and medicine.

“Existing findings about whether U.S. Hispanic adults were more or less hesitant about the vaccine than whites were unclear, and previous national studies did not look at immigrant and U.S.-born Hispanics separately,” Frisco said. “We thought this was important because we theorized that immigrants may be more hesitant about vaccines than their U.S.-born peers for several reasons, including fear of deportation in a political climate where foreign-born adults were afraid of being labeled as ‘public’ charges’ when they received free vaccines’.

That’s why the researchers were surprised to find that there were no significant differences between foreign-born Hispanics and U.S.-born whites and Hispanics in vaccine hesitancy. Their findings also showed that US-born Latino adults were less vaccines fluctuate than US-born white adults.

“The results of our study showed that the primary reason that US-born Hispanic adults were more receptive to vaccines than white adults was that this group was hit hard by COVID-19. “U.S.-born Latino adults were not only more likely to have known people who had been affected and died of COVID-19, but they were more likely to translate that experience into a greater willingness to be vaccinated,” Frisco said.

The researchers’ findings of black-white differences in vaccine hesitancy were more in line with their expectations. Black adults were more hesitant about the vaccine than US-born whites, and the researchers’ study was the first to document that these differences were almost entirely due to anti-vaccination beliefs.

“Unfortunately, the legacy of racism in health care and medical research had a lasting impact that led to hesitation about a vaccine against COVID-19,” Frisco said.

Variants of COVID-19 will likely require new vaccines in the future, Frisco said, so training — especially in the form of anti-vaccine beliefs is an important public health approach to preventing future racial/ethnic disparities in COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.

Other researchers on the project include: Jennifer Van Hook, Roy S. Buck Professor of Sociology and Demography and Director of the Penn State Institute for Population Studies; and former Penn State faculty member Kevin Thomas, professor of African Studies and the African Diaspora at the University of Texas at Austin.

One-third of US adults are still undecided about COVID-19 vaccines

Additional information:
Michelle L. Frisco et al. Racial/Ethnic and Birth Disparities in US Covid-19 Vaccination Fluctuations During Vaccine Rollout and Factors Explaining Them Social sciences and medicine (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.115183

Citation: Race Matters in COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy, Study Finds (July 27, 2022), Retrieved July 27, 2022, from html

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