Were the health equity concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout driven more by unequal vaccine access or lack of patient trust? According to two new studies, published by separate research teams, it may have been both. [Patient EngagementHIT]
While one study out of the University of Missouri found that vaccine hesitancy among Black people was linked to mistrust from historical and personal experiences of racism in medicine, a separate one from the University of California San Diego indicated unequal vaccine distribution also played a role.
These findings don’t have to negate one another. The Mizzou researchers noted that unequal vaccine uptake among Black people is only partially explained by vaccine hesitancy; factors like actual vaccine access, as explored by the UCSD researchers, likely compound the disparities.
Even still, it’s important to understand how each separate issue—patient trust and vaccine access—previously impacted the initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout. This comes amid rumblings that the federal health agencies will begin issuing new vaccines specific to the Omicron subvariant BA.5 in September. Assuring an equitable rollout will mean understanding missteps during the first go around.
ADDRESSING PATIENT TRUST, RACISM IN MEDICINE
According to the first study from Mizzou, public health leaders will need to consider further strategies to instill trust in traditionally marginalized groups like Black populations. Researcher Wilson Majee conducted a qualitative assessment using interviews with church leaders, lifestyle coaches, and participants of Live Well by Faith.
READ MORE: How Healthcare Is Starting to Heal Damaged Black Patient Trust
Live Well by Faith is a community-based health program run by the Boone County Health Department that sets to address chronic disease management in Black communities.
Respondents said key factors like social determinants of health kept them from getting the shots, as did things like a dearth of Black doctors administering vaccines, medical misinformation, and limited trust in the vaccine development process. Primarily, respondents said the shots were developed too quickly.
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