This answer from a survey respondent on the COVID-19 vaccine underscores the considerable challenge to immunizing people of color and ethnic minorities, who generally are at risk of more serious outcomes if infected with SARS-CoV-2.

The survey by the COVID Collaborative was conducted in September 2020 and reflects attitudes about vaccine hesitancy and resistance in the Black and Latinx communities.1 The survey collected responses from 1,050 Black adults and 258 Latinx adults.

There have been concerns about the speed of COVID-19 vaccine development and the possible politicization of the process. Historically, minority populations have been victimized in medical research, such as the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. In addition, the nation’s vocal antivaccine movement has endangered routine immunization rates, as evidenced by measles outbreaks after the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine was falsely linked to autism.

“Confirming previous findings, fewer than half of Black adults, 48%, say they probably or definitely would get a coronavirus vaccine if it were available for free including just 18% who definitely would get vaccinated,” the report states. “Among Latinx adults, interviewed for comparison, far more likely would get vaccinated, 66% percent, including 31% percent definitely.”

Safety and trust concerns are pervasive in both groups but their higher levels among Black people are key in these differing vaccination uptake intentions:

  • Just 14% of Black adults completely or mostly trust that a vaccine will be safe, compared with 34% of Latinx people.
  • Eighteen percent of Black people express trust in vaccine effectiveness, compared with 40% in the Latinx community.
  • Black adults are nearly 20% more skeptical than Latinx people that a vaccine will be adequately tested for safety and effectiveness specifically in their own racial or ethnic group.

“The academic literature long has identified lower rates of vaccine uptake among Black people than other Americans,” the report notes. “With respect to the seasonal flu, this disparity is connected to worries about vaccine safety, prevalent distrust, racial identities, and experiences of discrimination, among others. This survey builds upon these and other findings in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

Just 26% of Black people would recommend the COVID-19 vaccine to friends and family. In contrast, 43% of Latinx people would recommend immunization.

“Crucially, messaging must be sensitive to the unique challenges and difficult history of Black Americans with respect to medical practices and more broadly, experiences of discrimination and inequality,” the report concludes. “Among other key results, those who don’t think that the government can be trusted to look out for the interests of Black and Latinx people are less likely to trust that a coronavirus vaccine will be safe and less likely to trust the vaccine process. Any efforts to improve intended coronavirus vaccine uptake among Black Americans must address this challenging history and work to repair this trust.”

Other comments by survey respondents included those expressing doubts about the development process and perceived political pressure to create a vaccine:

  • “The development and trials appear to be rushed because of politics. I wouldn’t trust a vaccine that hasn’t been tested thoroughly. I don’t want to be a victim of side effects that may have been identified if the vaccine were thoroughly tested.”
  • “Too much haste in developing this vaccine. Politics is being put before people’s health and safety.”
  • “The speed to get a vaccine approved is scary. Until enough research and testing is done, I won’t feel safe.”
  • “The rush to develop a vaccine by companies who have never even developed vaccines [leaves] room for errors and serious side effects.”
  • “It’s a rush vaccination and not truly tested for Black lives.”
  • “The president has interfered too much, and I don’t trust that he is not behind manipulating decisions about drugs safety and readiness.”
  • “It is too early and appropriate testing has not happened. I feel the vaccine is being rushed for political reasons and African Americans are especially vulnerable to abuses in the process. I am very pro-vaccination but the steps and protocols for approval must be followed.”

REFERENCE

  1. COVID Collaborative. Coronavirus Vaccine Hesitancy in Black and Latinx Communities. Nov. 23, 2021. https://www.covidcollaborative.us/content/vaccine-treatments/coronavirus-vaccine-hesitancy-in-black-and-latinx-communities