Knowledge a factor in closing Black-white COVID-19 vaccination gap

New research from the Annenberg Public Policy Center shows that exposure to knowledge about vaccine safety and efficacy from trusted sources can matter.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Americans were more hesitant to take the COVID vaccine than were White Americans. As the pandemic went on, however, the disparity in vaccination rates between Black and White adults declined. In a paper titled “What Caused the Narrowing of Black-White COVID-19 Vaccination Disparity in the US? A Test of 5 Hypotheses,” published in the current issue of the Journal of Health Communication, researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) assessed explanations for the positive change.

A line of people waiting to register for vaccines.
Image: iStock/SeventyFour

Using April 2021 to July 2022 data from the Annenberg Science and Public Health (ASAPH) survey, a national panel of over 1,800 U.S. adults, a team led by APPC research director Dan Romer assessed potential explanations, including: increased trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure to pro-vaccination messages in the media, awareness of COVID-inflicted deaths among personal contacts, and improved access to vaccines. None of these factors explained the decline in disparity, however. Only increased knowledge about COVID-19 vaccination made a difference. Knowledge about the COVID vaccine among Black Americans increased over time, and this increase was associated with their receipt of the vaccine.

“Black Americans became less skeptical of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine as time proceeded, which appeared in our data to be an important contributor to increased vaccination rates among them,” says Romer.

In the initial wave of the survey, in April 2021, Black respondents were more likely to believe various forms of misinformation about COVID vaccines, such as that the vaccines are responsible for thousands of deaths and that the vaccines can change someone’s DNA. By the end of the survey period, knowledge about the vaccine among Black Americans had increased significantly.

Read more at Annenberg Public Policy Center.