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Study ties age, housing insecurity to vaccine concerns among African Americans

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 5:21 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A survey of mostly Black adults living in and around Augusta found COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy was greatest among those ages 18 to 29.

“Age is the main driver,” said Dr. Justin Xavier Moore, epidemiologist at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, with those 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed having increased odds of being vaccine resistant compared to those 50 and older.

COVID-related housing insecurity — difficulty paying the rent or mortgage or even eviction — increased the odds of vaccine resistance and was the next strongest association they found in one of the first studies examining factors related to vaccine hesitancy among a large African American community sample, says Moore.

He was corresponding author of the study published in a special edition of the journal Vaccines.

The authors say the findings highlight the need for innovative and proactive approaches in two vulnerable groups:

  • Younger Black people who may believe that their risk of severe COVID-19 and death are low due to their age and lack of chronic conditions.
  • People with housing insecurity due to COVID-19 “who may have limited or no reliable interactions with health care systems.”

Health care systems and organizations must build trust and rapport with these communities, concluded the investigators. They suggested more diversity among medical professionals, community services and transparency about vaccine facts.

The research team surveyed 257 adults living in Augusta, Hephzibah, North Augusta and Aiken, during six events starting Dec. 5, 2020, a little more than a week before the first person in the U.S. was vaccinated. The study continued to April 17, 2021. The community events were held by 100 Black Men of Augusta in collaboration with the Medical College of Georgia. The gatherings were mostly in Black churches and barbershops.

Dr. Justin Xavier Moore
Dr. Justin Xavier Moore(WRDW)

Researchers found about one-third, 31.9%, were hesitant or resistant to receiving a vaccine. Those hesitant were more likely to be young, a median age of 31, while the median age of the acceptant individuals was 61. A greater percentage, 57.1%, of those considered resistant, were female, and they were more likely to be employed full time but less likely to have health insurance. They had fewer comorbidities like high blood pressure and diabetes, compared to acceptant individuals, but were also more likely to be smokers than those in the other two categories and less likely to have ever received a flu shot. Those with more chronic health problems, like high blood pressure, were least likely to be vaccine resistant.

Among the resistant, 33.3% reported housing insecurity, compared with 10% and 6.9% for hesitant and acceptant participants, respectively.

About half the participants also had not been tested for COVID.

Moore expected hesitancy to be more homogenous.

“There are systemic issues that have disproportionately affected Black and brown communities for a long time in this country,” he says.

Black Americans are both disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and less likely to be vaccinated against it than whites, Moore and his colleagues write. Black Americans are nearly three times more likely to be hospitalized and twice as likely to die from COVID-19.

To identify the best way to help those most affected, the investigators are now taking the key factors of hesitancy they found and having targeted conversations to find the reasons behind them, he says.

The research was funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National institutes of Health.

Read the full study.

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