A recent survey conducted on the adult population in the United States has identified the most common predictive reasons behind coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine hesitancy. The findings indicate that most of the individuals with chronic health conditions express hesitancy towards the vaccine because of safety and side-effect-related concerns.
The study has been published in the journal Health Science Reports.
Rapid development and rolling out of COVID-19 vaccines have positively impacted global public health in terms of controlling the transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and reducing the severity of COVID-19. However, soon after the initiation of mass vaccination campaigns, a substantial proportion of the global population has expressed unwillingness to get the vaccine mostly because of the concerns related to vaccine safety and possible side-effects. Such concerns are mostly associated with the rapid speed at which vaccines were developed and tested in clinical trials.
A recent review covering a large number of studies conducted globally has provided some encouraging results. In this review, a willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine has been observed in about 60 – 90% of individuals. However, a high level of vaccine hesitancy can still be observed among individuals with chronic health conditions, including cognitive and developmental disorders. This is concerning as individuals with chronic disorders are at higher risk of developing severe or fatal COVID-19.
In the current cross-sectional observational survey, the scientists have aimed to identify the causal factors for vaccine hesitancy in the US adult population with chronic health conditions.
The online survey was conducted on 5,023 adults representing all 50 US states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. A total of 361 participants with at least one chronic disorder were selected for the analysis. The most commonly included chronic disorders were cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and physical disability.
The participants were asked whether they are willing to take COVID-19 vaccines that are immediately available in sufficient quantity. The participants who expressed uncertainty or complete negativity towards vaccination were further asked to provide reasons to justify their responses.
The analysis of the survey was conducted in two steps. In the first step, the participant’s age, sex, race, educational level, employment status, and number of chronic disorders were included as predictors for vaccine hesitancy. The findings revealed that higher vaccine hesitancy is associated with younger age and lower educational level.
In the second step of the analysis, participant-reported potential reasons for vaccine hesitancy were included as predictors. The findings revealed that lower vaccine hesitancy is associated with higher numbers of chronic health conditions.
The most commonly reported reason for vaccine hesitancy was concerns regarding vaccine safety and possible side effects. A significant level of vaccine hesitancy was also observed in participants who did not feel at risk for acquiring COVID-19, or those who believed that health risks from COVID-19 are lower than that from the vaccine.
The third most commonly reported reason for vaccine hesitancy was a willingness to wait for a few weeks or months until a considerable proportion of the population has received the vaccine. This reason was endorsed by 12.5% of the participants. In addition, about 11% of the participants reported concerns about vaccine effectiveness as a potential reason for vaccine hesitancy.
The study reveals that vaccine hesitancy in the US adult population is primarily associated with concerns over vaccine safety and possible side effects. While younger age and lower educational level serve as predictors of vaccine hesitancy, participant-reported reasons are primarily responsible for not getting the vaccine.
As mentioned by the scientists, vaccine safety and side-effect-related concerns may come from a sense of fear, or a lack of trust in the vaccine and its development. In contrast, a lower feeling of risk for getting COVID-19 may play a potential role in reducing negative thoughts, which collectively may increase the level of unwillingness towards vaccination.
Thus, more health-related campaigns and programs describing vaccine safety, efficacy, and credibility are needed to improve the trust in COVID-19 vaccines and overcome vaccine hesitancy among individuals with chronic health conditions.