Q. Some people are skeptical about receiving the vaccine. What are some of the concerns, and what are the responses to these concerns?
A. According to polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health information and journalism organization, the main reasons given by those who are hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine include possible side effects (59%); lack of trust in the government to ensure the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness (55%); vaccine is too new (53%); concerns over the role of politics in the development process (51%); the risks of getting COVID are exaggerated (43%); don’t trust vaccines in general (37%); don’t trust the health care system (35%); worried about getting COVID from the vaccine (27%); don’t think they’re at risk of getting sick from the virus (20%).
Members of different racial groups have different reasons for not wanting to get vaccinated. For example, according to Kaiser, Black adults who are hesitant are more likely than white adults to cite concerns about side effects (71% vs. 56%) and the newness of the vaccine (71% vs. 48%) as major reasons for not wanting to get vaccinated. About half of Black adults who say they probably or definitely won’t get vaccinated say they are worried they may get COVID-19 from the vaccine (50%) or that they don’t trust vaccines in general (47%).
According to Kaiser, most Hispanic adults surveyed say they will get vaccinated at some point. Overall, 26% of Hispanic adults say they will get a COVID-19 vaccine “as soon as possible,” while an additional 43% say they will wait to see how it is working before getting it. Fewer say they will only get a vaccine “if required to do so for work, school or other activities” (11%) or that they “will definitely not” get the vaccine (18%). A quarter (26%) of Hispanic adults say they definitely or probably won’t get the vaccine.
About half (48%) of Black adults say they are not confident that, during the development of COVID-19 vaccines, the needs of Black people were taken into account, and over a third (36%) of Hispanic adults feel the same about the needs of Hispanic people, according to Kaiser.
Venton Forbes, executive director of FaithCare Inc., a nonprofit organization that works to bridge the gap between faith and medicine, said his Black community is definitely “reluctant” to get the vaccine, for a variety of reasons. He said the memory of the Tuskegee experiment – in which 600 Black men thought they were receiving free health care from the U.S. but in fact were unknowingly participating in a study of untreated syphilis from 1932 to 1972 – still looms large in Black memories. But there are other reasons for not wanting the vaccine, he said.
“Some feel the process (of developing the vaccine) was rushed, or they do not trust or believe in the claims” made by the Trump administration about the vaccine’s safety, Forbes said. He added that some people he’s spoken to prefer to take a “wait and see” attitude, “see how other communities – such as Caucasian – do with the vaccine,” he said.
Forbes said he’s telling people to “be wise and listen. We have to deal with [vaccination reluctance] on an individual basis. We can’t give a blanket statement for everyone.”
He said a concern of health care leaders is that minority communities – which have been disproportionally affected by the coronavirus – will refuse to get vaccinated. “Our biggest fear is that communities of color will not take it and will suffer as a result,” he said. “I plan on taking the vaccine, and I shared why I believe what I believe on social media.”
He said those doubting the vaccine should listen to their primary care doctor, if they have one. He said it’s also important to reach out to those who have been affected by COVID-19, and listen to their stories.
Forbes said he’s aware he has resources that others may not have. “I can only speak from the seat I’m in,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon those who have resources to be that good neighbor and share the knowledge and resources.”
The Connecticut Center for Patient Safety, an organization that works to improve the quality of healthcare, urges people “to do the necessary research for their particular circumstance,” said Executive Director Lisa Freeman.
“We urge everyone to become aware of what is already known about the vaccine, information that is frequently changing, in terms of the effectiveness, side effects, and complications. We urge everyone to speak to trusted members of their community and their primary health care provider to find out the information that they should be aware of. This is an individual decision and should be an informed decision. However, it is very important for as many people as possible to be vaccinated in order to contain the virus and open up the communities around us,” Freeman said.
For up-to-date information on the coronavirus and the vaccine, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.