Black and Latin people confident in COVID-19 safety precautions but skeptical of vaccines
Rutgers study finds vaccination campaigns in black and Latin communities depend on transparent information and trusting relationships
Blacks and Latinxes have intensely researched information on COVID-19 and engaged in public health measures such as wearing masks and testing due to devastating experiences during the pandemic, but are still skeptical of vaccines , according to a Rutgers study.
The results, which appear in JAMA network open, offer insight into what motivates people in black and Latin communities – who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic – to adopt COVID-19 safety precautions but hesitate about vaccines. The results can also help develop appropriate public health messages and strategies.
Researchers interviewed 111 black and Latin people from low-income New Jersey counties with high rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths during the initial 2020 outbreak. They also interviewed health workers from those communities. to understand their point of view.
“Fear, illness and loss suffered during the pandemic motivated them to intensely seek information and take safety precautions like wearing a mask, social distancing and hand washing to protect themselves and their relatives“Said co-author Manuel Jimenez, assistant professor of pediatrics, family medicine and community health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine. “However, participants did not trust the vaccine development process and wanted clearer information. “
The study found that:
- Latinx participants, in particular, reported difficulty finding testing sites, transportation issues, and language barriers. This was more pronounced for undocumented people who were asked to pay for tests if they were not eligible for unemployment benefits and other assistance programs.
- Some participants did not feel safe inside or outside their homes and described uncertainty over who among them had the virus. Overcrowded living conditions have resulted in contact with neighbors and roommates with COVID-19.
- Participants asked how a vaccine against a new virus could be developed so quickly when other diseases have been around for decades without effective vaccines. They also expressed concern that the vaccine development process, including clinical trials had been “rushed”, and worried about short and long term side effects.
- They questioned whether vaccines would work against the variants and wanted clear and transparent information about the effectiveness of vaccines. Many wanted to see first how others would react to the vaccination.
- Black participants mentioned mistrust of health systems and government, citing experience of racism, discriminatory interventions and medical experimentation.
“We need to reduce logistical barriers and improve access to testing in underserved communities, regardless of the status of the literature,” said co-researcher Shawna Hudson, professor and head of research division in the Department of Medicine Family and Community Health Center from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Healthcare providers should offer convenient testing options, sites within walking distance, translated information and transparency about free testing to overcome these barriers. “
Logistical barriers to testing must be removed and vaccine skepticism must be taken seriously, the report concluded.
“The remaining unknowns about new vaccines need to be recognized and described so that these communities can make informed decisions,” Jimenez said. “Scientists and government officials should work collaboratively with community leaders and trusted 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 hesitation.
The study was conducted as part of NJ HEROES TOO (New Jersey Healthcare Essential Worker OutReach and Education Study – Testing Overlooked Occupations) in collaboration with 18 community organizations and four healthcare organizations, funded by the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations (RADx-UP).
Other Rutgers authors include Zorimar Rivera-Núñez, Benjamin F. Crabtree, Diane Hill, Maria B. Pellerano, Donita Devance, Myneka Macenat, Daniel Lima, Emmanuel Martinez Alcaraz, Jeanne M. Ferrante, Emily S. Barrett, Martin J. Blaser and Reynold A. Panettieri Jr.