Discrimination based on race in the criminal justice system may contribute to Black adult COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.
COVID-19 was the third-most significant cause of mortality across the United States in 2020. In 2019, the World Health Organization declared vaccine hesitancy a top-ten global health problem. Hesitancy concerning the COVID-19 vaccine is decreasing along racial lines in the United States. Still, Black people have regularly expressed higher vaccine hesitancy than White people.
A study published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities studied the differences in vaccine hesitancy among Black people and whether they are related to racial discrimination.
On a broader poll of Arkansans (N = 1500), 350 Black Arkansas residents aged 18 and older provided data between July 12 and 30, 2021. Black and Hispanic residents were oversampled in the random-digit dialing of landlines and cell phones. Reports of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, influenza immunization history, pandemic experiences, racial discrimination, and sociodemographic information were obtained.
Rates of Racial Discrimination Among the Population
Half of the respondents (50.3%) reported police or judicial discrimination. Over half of those polled have encountered discrimination in an educational context (60.7%), at their workplace (61.5%), in stores or restaurants (68.1%), or in public places (70.6%). Black workers who were discriminated against were more likely to be “somewhat hesitant” than “not at all” or “very hesitant.”
COVID-19 vaccine resistance was strongly associated with police and court discrimination.
Individuals who reported experiences of discrimination with police or in the courts had 2.61 times higher odds of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy than those who reported never having such an encounter.
Almost Half of the Population Reported No Vaccine Hesitancy
About half (48.9%) had no hesitancy about getting vaccinated against COVID-19, with the remaining respondents being either slightly hesitant (14.7%), somewhat hesitant (14.0%), or very reluctant (22.4%). On average, younger Black adults expressed greater hesitancy to get the COVID-19 vaccination. There was an inverse relationship between age and vaccination hesitancy for COVID-19.
The Relationship Between Vaccine Hesitancy and Influenza Vaccination
COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy was associated with influenza immunization during the last 5 years, with a greater number of respondents who reported obtaining an influenza vaccination also reporting being “not at all” hesitant. The odds of COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy were 1.7 times larger for persons who reported having a close friend or family member die from COVID-19.
Researchers need to appreciate how racial discrimination against Black adults in numerous places and institutions may affect vaccine hesitancy. Addressing COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy among Black adults should involve law enforcement and criminal justice reform.
Willis, D. E., Andersen, J. A., Montgomery, B. E. E., Selig, J. P., Shah, S. K., Zaller, N., Bryant-Moore, K., Scott, A. J., Williams, M., & McElfish, P. A. (2022). COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy and Experiences of Discrimination Among Black Adults. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 10(3), 1025–1034. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-022-01290-x