African Americans and the Covid-19 Vaccine
The African American community has been hit disproportionately hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid vaccines have been available to Americans aged 12 and up – however, African Americans have been getting vaccinated at a lower rate than other racial and ethnic groups. Contributing to this hesitancy is a painful collective memory of having their trust violated and health endangered by the medical establishment, along with other forms of institutional racism.
At BET, we knew it was our duty to provide a view on African American attitudes, opinions and behaviors surrounding Covid vaccination. Between February and June 2021, we fielded 9 online surveys of African Americans aged 18 to 60 to understand their views and track any changes.
Focusing mainly on data from the most recent wave in June, here’s what we learned:
Covid has hit home for many African Americans. Just over 1 in 10 have tested positive for Covid, with those who are on the younger end of adulthood (18 to 34) more likely to have had the virus than those over 35. A third know someone who has died from Covid – and over 60% of them lost a close family member or friend.
Distrust in government and concerns about side effects are the main reasons for putting off vaccination. Not trusting the government to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective (57%), a sense that politics has played too much of a role in vaccine development (46%), and a lack of trust in the health care system (35%) all contribute to African Americans’ hesitancy. The rapid development of the vaccine also plays a role, with 54% worried about potential side effects, 53% feeling the vaccine is too new and wanting to see how it works for others, and 50% believing it’s all happened too quickly.
For vaccine information, doctors are trusted the most, followed by the CDC, Dr. Fauci, and President Biden. At 39%, African Americans see their own doctors as the most trusted authorities on vaccination, closely followed by the CDC (37%), Dr. Fauci (36%), Joe Biden (36%), their local public health department (32%), and the FDA (30%). Trust in pharmaceutical companies and state government is relatively low, at 26% and 24%, respectively.
Mom, Dad, and doctors were the top influencers for those who have been vaccinated. Among African Americans who have had the Covid vaccine, the people who had the most influence over that decision were their parents (28%), followed by their doctor (26%). For 24%, the choice was theirs alone, without the influence of anyone else.
About 4 in 10 parents plan to get their eligible kids vaccinated. As of late June, 42% of African American parents said they definitely or probably would get the vaccine for their kids who were of age to receive it. However, 37% said they probably or definitely would not get their kids vaccinated, and 21% were undecided.
Many are ready to start traveling again. While 25% said they have traveled in the past 6 months, substantially more (44%) say they plan to travel within the next 3 months. Among African Americans who have been vaccinated, 46% say that getting vaccinated has made them travel more.