Language barriers and distrust of the health care system are among the reasons why many Black and Hispanic Americans are reluctant to get COVID-19 vaccines, a new study finds.
The two groups — which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic — have followed safety precautions such as mask use and testing, but are hesitant about getting vaccinated.
To find out why, Rutgers University researchers interviewed 111 Black and Hispanic residents of low-income counties in New Jersey that had high rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths during the early stages of the pandemic.
“Fear, illness and loss experienced during the pandemic motivated them to intensely seek information and take safety precautions like wearing a mask, social distancing and washing hands to protect themselves and loved ones,” said study co-author Dr. Manuel Jimenez, assistant professor of pediatrics, family medicine and community health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
“However, participants did not trust the vaccine development process and wanted clearer information,” he said in a university news release.
Difficulty finding testing sites, transportation issues and language barriers were among the problems reported by the study participants, particularly Hispanics.
Participants said they questioned how vaccines for a new virus could be developed so quickly when there are no vaccines for other diseases that have been around for a long time. They also had concerns that vaccine development had been “rushed” and worried about short- and long-term side effects.
They wanted clear and transparent information on vaccine effectiveness, including if they work against variants, and many wanted to delay getting vaccines until they saw how others responded to them.
Black study participants’ reasons for not getting vaccinated included distrust of health care systems and government, citing experiences of racism, discriminatory interventions and medical experimentation, according to the findings published July 15 in the journal JAMA Network Open.
“We need to reduce logistical barriers and improve access to testing within underserved communities, regardless of documentation status,” said study co-principal investigator Shawna Hudson. She is professor and research division chief in the medical school’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.
“Health care providers should offer convenient testing options, accessible sites within walking distance, translated information and transparency about free testing to address these barriers,” Hudson said in the release.
“The remaining unknowns about new vaccines need to be acknowledged and described for these communities to make informed decisions,” Jimenez said. “Scientists and public officials need to work collaboratively with trusted community leaders and health professionals to provide transparent information, including remaining unknowns, so that these communities can make informed decisions rather than focusing on marketing campaigns to eliminate vaccine hesitancy.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 vaccines.
SOURCE: Rutgers University, news release, July 15, 2021
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