With the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine underway, a University of Houston-Victoria faculty member has gained insight into which communities of people are hesitant to get the vaccine.

Michael Wiblishauser, a University of Houston-Victoria assistant professor of health studies, co-authored the medical research paper “COVID-19 Vaccination Hesitancy in the United States: A Rapid National Assessment.” The paper recently was published in the Journal of Community Health, a national academic journal.

“Not getting the vaccine could lead to death for some people,” Wiblishauser said. “I hope this article will be a step forward for other research articles that cover COVID-19 vaccinations.”

The research took a comprehensive and systematic national assessment of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in a community-based sample of the American adult population. The purpose of the study was to learn reasons why people in the U.S. were hesitant about receiving the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The study was conducted online in June using Amazon Mechanical Turk and included participation of 1,878 U.S. adults.

The study found that a little more than half — 52% — of participants were very likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Twenty-seven percent said they were somewhat likely to get the vaccine, and 15% said they were not likely to get the vaccine. Seven percent said they would not get the vaccine.

The highest percentage of those hesitant about getting the vaccine were women, African Americans, Hispanics, those who had children at home, individuals with lower education and incomes, those who lived in rural areas, people in the northeastern U.S., and those who identified as Republicans.

Most of the participants who said they were not likely to get the vaccine thought that they or their families were not at risk of COVID-19. Other reasons for not getting vaccinated included mistrust of the biomedical and health care field by minority communities and misinformation from noncredible websites.

Study participants who said they were more likely to get the vaccine more often had a college degree, or an income of $60,000 or more, or did not have a job.

A little more than half of the total survey participants were females, at 52%. Out of all the participants, 74% were white; 81% were non-Hispanic; a little more than half were married; 68% were employed full time; and 77% had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The authors of the paper also looked at the history of vaccination hesitancy in the country, as well as the likelihood of individuals getting the vaccine. In addition, they reviewed what the participants perceived as the benefits of receiving the vaccine, the perceived risk of getting COVID-19 themselves and the individual’s family risk of contracting COVID-19.

The researchers concluded that honest and evidence-based communication about the vaccine could help people be less hesitant about getting the vaccine, Wiblishauser said.

He got involved with the study during the summer when he was approached by Jagdish Khubchandani, the lead researcher and a longtime research partner. Six university faculty from across the nation co-authored the paper. For his part, Wiblishauser focused on writing the survey results and making sure the methodology was valid. He worked on the study off and on until December.

“As the pandemic continues, it is more important than ever to continue research into all areas of the coronavirus,” said Rachel Martinez, interim dean of the School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development. “We are all proud of the work Dr. Wiblishauser has done to help people better understand the situation surrounding vaccine hesitancy.”

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines, go to www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines. To read “COVID-19 Vaccination Hesitancy in the United States: A Rapid National Assessment” go to link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10900-020-00958-x.

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