COVID-19 vaccination status among US college students

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been caused by the rapid outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Vaccination programs have commenced in many countries, but recently, there has been a slowing of vaccination among some individuals and groups due to vaccine hesitancy. A new study has been published to study the correlations of COVID-19 vaccination status among college students. A preprint version of the study is available on the medRxiv* server while the article undergoes peer review.

Study: Correlates of COVID-19 vaccination status among college students. Image Credit: Drazen Zigic/ ShutterstockStudy: Correlates of COVID-19 vaccination status among college students. Image Credit: Drazen Zigic/ Shutterstock

Background

Recently, there has been a rise in vaccine hesitancy among some individuals, which has led to the slowing of vaccination among adults. There are multiple reasons for vaccine hesitancy. These could include a general mistrust of the medical community and a lack of good quality information. Disparities in access to vaccines, political influence, and concern over side effects have also played important roles in raising vaccine hesitancy.

Scientists have advocated for more research on the causes of vaccine hesitancy, which is crucial given the rising trend in COVID-19 cases and the increased risk posed by the reopening of college campuses. Young adult vaccination is a critical element needed to reduce morbidity and mortality and contain the pandemic's extremely dynamic nature.

A thorough understanding of the epidemiology of vaccine hesitancy is needed to help shape effective health communication campaigns to encourage vaccination. The current study evaluated the characteristics of being unvaccinated among students at the University of Southern California (USC) during the Spring and Summer of 2021.

A new study

Students of USC were eligible to take part in this study if they were currently enrolled at the University, were 18 years of age or above, and were willing to provide informed consent. The study was approved by the USC Institutional Review Board and advertised on university websites. Emails with invitation links were sent to graduate and undergraduate students, who provided the informed consent and completed the survey electronically. The survey responses were collected from 29th April 2021 to 12th July 2021. 86.3% of the surveys were completed in April and May. The sample size was 2900.

Students responded to a wide array of questions ranging from their ethnicity to their political affiliations. The students were racially diverse, belonging to White, Asian/Asian American, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, multicultural, or other groups. Political affiliation (Democrat, Independent, Republican), sex, degree status, and international student status were also noted.

Students self-reported their COVID-19 history, and their responses were categorized as "yes" or "no." They also provided information on their recent travel history outside Los Angeles, housing, degree program, COVID-19 knowledge, and attitudes towards complying with public safety norms like wearing facemasks. The outcome variable of interest was self-reported vaccination status at the time of the survey.

Researchers used univariate logistic regression models to select variables for final models, and only those variables were included that were significantly associated with vaccination status (p<0.05). Scientists reported the adjusted odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals.

Main results

The sample's demographic characteristics were broadly representative of the USC student population, although there was some overrepresentation of Asians and women and underrepresentation of Hispanics and international students. 82.9% of the participants said that they were vaccinated at the time of the survey.

African American students were more likely to be unvaccinated than Non-Hispanic White participants. Undergraduate and international students had higher odds of being unvaccinated when compared to graduate students and domestic students, respectively.

Students who previously had COVID-19 were less likely to be vaccinated.

Concerning political affiliation, students supporting Democrats were most likely to be vaccinated. Also, students with a travel history outside Los Angeles were more likely to be vaccinated than those who remained in the city.

Conclusion

Previous studies on vaccine hesitancy were limited by small sample sizes – a shortcoming that the current study overcame. However, there were some limitations of this study. The analysis was not based on a random sample of students. The findings will not necessarily generalize to the wider student population. Further, the vaccination status was self-reported. Future studies are needed to identify the correlates of vaccine hesitancy among students who chose not to participate.

It is essential to understand the factors that play a key role in bringing about vaccine hesitancy. This understanding will guide researchers and policymakers to develop targeted education campaigns across college and university campuses and aid in collaborating with students to build reliable resources to combat future pandemics.

*Important Notice

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.

Journal reference:
Dr. Priyom Bose

Written by

Dr. Priyom Bose

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and an experienced science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research articles that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and an amateur photographer.

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