COVID Vaccine Only Works If You Take It

November 20, 2020
Frank Diamond

Investigators argue that their findings suggest that a public health campaign touting the benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine had better begin as soon as possible. Like today.

Lost in the excitement today surrounding Pfizer and its partner BioNTech’s request of emergency use authorization (EUA) for their coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine, has been the question of whether the public will take that vaccine, if it’s approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Healthcare experts expect that a COVID-19 vaccine will be a crucial contributor to the process that will finally allow us to get back to some approximation of our pre-COVID lives thanks to the herd immunity it would help foster. But, again, will the herd cooperate?

That’s the question researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University set out to answer. Their findings are in a pre-print study in the American Journal of Infection Control. “Overall, 60% of participants in this diverse sample were either definitely or probably willing to receive a future COVID-19 vaccine and 25% were either definitely or probably willing to receive the vaccine under an EUA authorization,” the study states. “Black respondents were less likely to indicate intent to get the vaccine than White respondents, including under EUA.”

The authors cite prior studies that show that blacks and other minorities do not have as much trust in the healthcare information distributed by the government that whites do. Public health agencies and private health systems will need to try and rebuild trust with minorities. But there’s also a lack of trust among older people when it comes to the EUA authorization and, as the study states, that’s another area of concern “because this group is also at higher risk for COVID-19 morbidity and mortality and will likely be a priority group to receive the vaccine.”

The data were gathered through a survey of 788 adults in the United States taken in July. And the investigators wanted to ensure that the survey covered as broad a demographic as possible: 50% were from females, and 50% from males. The racial and ethnic mix was also even, with 33% each for white, black, and Hispanic/Latinx

“Significant predictors of COVID-19 vaccine uptake intentions were education, having insurance, scoring high on subjective norms, a positive attitude toward the vaccine, as well as high perceived susceptibility to COVID-19, high perceived benefits of the vaccine, scoring low on barriers to the vaccine, and scoring high on self-efficacy,” the study states. “Predictors of willingness to take a COVID-19 vaccine under EUA were age, race/ethnicity, positive subjective norms, high perceived behavioral control, positive attitudes toward the vaccine, as well as high perceived susceptibility to COVID-19, high perceived benefits of the vaccine, low barriers to the vaccine, and scoring high on self-efficacy for getting the vaccine. Concerns about rushed vaccine development appear to reduce vaccine uptake intent, as well as willingness to get the vaccine under EUA.”

Investigators argue that their findings suggest that a public health campaign touting the benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine had better begin as soon as possible. Like today. “Vaccine efforts may need to go beyond just communications campaigns correcting misinformation about a COVID-19 vaccine to also focus on re-establishing public trust in government agencies,” the study states. “Groundwork for public acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine, with or without EUA, should be started immediately, before a vaccine is approved and becomes available. Such campaigns should address known potential barriers using culturally appropriate messages as well as specifically target social media influencers.”

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