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If We Build It, Will They Come?

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is devastating. The loss of lives is staggering, with over one million lives lost worldwide, and over 200,000 deaths in the United States alone. The full impact of the pandemic is still unknown, but the ramifications are extensive and dire. Multiple labs around the globe are working to create effective vaccines, and the possibility that one or more will be available in the coming months is a beacon of hope for many. However, achieving the benefits of a vaccine requires another step as well – the vaccine will only be effective if there is uptake. Influenza vaccines have been available in the United States for many years, but less than half of the population is vaccinated each year. Simply publicizing recommendations for vaccination is insufficient. Our team recently surveyed a nationally representative sample of approximately 1,000 US adults and found that only 57% intended to be vaccinated when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available. This percentage was even lower among people who identified as Black or Hispanic (39% and 43% respectively), those with a high school education or less (46%) and those in the lowest income groups (49% of those reporting a household income of $30,000 or less, compared to 72% of those reporting a household income of $100,000 or more). We asked those who indicated they would not or might not get vaccinated for their reasons and found that some individuals may be willing to be vaccinated if provided specific information about the vaccine such as side effects, and effectiveness. Others expressed generalized skepticism, fear and distrust of vaccines, with some even referring to currently circulating anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. Our findings are consistent with an extensive body of research suggesting an urgent need to proactively develop and test interventions to maximize vaccination rates when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available. We seek to address this need by creating and testing targeted messages to address the concerns of subgroups of people at risk for not being vaccinated with the ultimate goal of maximizing vaccine uptake when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available. We will accomplish this by working with an existing online panel of volunteers, which will allow efficient, focused data gathering. Results of the first round of the survey will provide a nuanced, current description of how vulnerable adults perceive the coronavirus and forthcoming vaccines, which will be used as the basis for developing messages and communication strategies. In the second round we will test different versions of messages intended to reduce vaccine hesitancy and support uptake. This project will ultimately result in a set of tested, evidence-derived messages about vaccination for COVID-19. We will make these messages available, together with evidence how these influence members of vulnerable populations’ understanding of vaccination, and disease risk, as well as intent to be vaccinated. The messages will be freely available for use by organizations and providers seeking to improve communication about a coronavirus vaccine.

Identify any specific population(s) this project will serve: 
Medically Underserved Areas/Populations
African Americans or Black
Latino or Hispanic
Identify roles of participants this project will serve: 
General public
Health care provider
Public health professional
Project Lead:
Kathleen Mazor
Funding Source: 
Project Funding:
Federal Fiscal Year: 
Funding Amount: 
Funding Period:
Oct 1, 2020 to Apr 30, 2021
Project Status: