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Colorado School of Public Health survey shows persisting racial disparities when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 vaccinations
Posted at 12:12 PM, Oct 26, 2021

DENVER – A new nationwide survey led by the Colorado School of Public Health shows there continues to be racial disparities around the COVID-19 vaccine.

The survey – the third in a series from the Risk and Social Policy Group, a coalition of scholars from various fields of science – which was completed in June when most people over the age of 60 had already been vaccinated, shows that despite increasing vaccination rates across the country, hesitancy and questions about the safety of the COVID-19 remains across racial groups.

For example, among those under the age of 60, 67% of Hispanics said they were vaccinated compared to 63% of whites and 54% of Blacks, pointing to a lower trust in the safety of the vaccines due to structural racism and general mistrust from Black communities in the medical system, according to the authors of the survey.

Racial disparities were also found in perceptions around the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, the importance of getting the vaccine to restart the economy, and the willingness of participants to get a booster shot.

The survey found both Asians and whites had a high degree of confidence that the COVID-19 was safe for adults at 75% and 78%, respectively. Perceptions around the safety in the vaccine diminished among Hispanics and Blacks, with 66% of Hispanics believing it to be safe, compared to 58% of Blacks.

Perceptions around the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for children, however, showed a drop across all age groups. Only 44% of whites believe the vaccine is safe for children, compared to Hispanics at 38%, Blacks at 31% and Asians, at 42%.

Both Asians and whites said it was important for people to get the vaccine so businesses could reopen (76%), compared to Hispanics (64%) and Blacks (57%). When asked if they were willing to get a booster shot, only 53% of Blacks and 59% of Hispanics said they would do it, compared to 77% and 78% of whites and Asians, respectively.

During the initial stages of the months-long survey, which was conducted in January and February of this year, researchers found 45-point gap between Black and white respondents when asked, ““People of my race are treated fairly in a healthcare setting.”

Only 22% of Black respondents agreed with that statement, compared to 67% of whites.

By the third survey, 66% of respondents who did not think their race was treated fairly had received the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 84% who answered that their race was treated fairly in a healthcare setting, the findings show.

“As public health professional and policy makers, we need to acknowledge and confront the legacy of medical and structural racism if we’re going to continue making progress, particularly in the face of more infectious variants,” said Katherine Dickinson, a Colorado School of Public Health faculty member who led the research.

Racial disparities also exist around vaccine mandates and/or so-called “vaccine passports,” the survey found.

Seventy-six percent of white respondents said they would be willing to show proof they had been vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to 64% of Hispanics and 60% of Blacks. When asked if employers should mandate COVID-19 vaccines, 65% of Asian respondents agreed, compared to 58% of whites, 47% of Hispanics, and 43% of Blacks.

The survey also found that among unvaccinated respondents, incentives varied depending on what type of rewards were being offered (a $100 cash reward was deemed more favorable than a $1 million lottery or tickets to a sporting event, for example). Most unvaccinated respondents, however, said they would not get vaccinated regardless of which incentive was being offered.

In closing remarks, researchers said vaccine mandates, potential incentives and booster shots “are all tools which need to be utilized in context,” and noted that a “possible return to normal should encourage trust and propensity for the vaccines while also pushing all to ensure equitable distribution moving forward.”