COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Common Among African Americans in the Southeast

March 19, 2021
Christine Blank

African Americans are significantly less likely to get a COVID-19 vaccination, and hesitancy is particularly prevalent in South Carolina and the Southeast U.S., a new survey says.

African Americans are significantly less likely to get a COVID-19 vaccination, and hesitancy is particularly prevalent in South Carolina and the Southeast U.S., a new survey says.

To address the problem, a number of South Carolina community organizations are developing a pubic health education campaign in communities where vaccine hesitancy remains prevalent.

While 28.5% of African Americans nationwide are “very likely” to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, only 19.3% of African Americans in the Southeast United States are also "very likely" to get it, according to the ADoH SCIENTIFIC survey.

On the other hand, 22.8% of African Americans in the Southeast say they are “very unlikely” to receive the vaccine, ADoH said in a press release.

Conversely, 50.7% of whites in the Southeast and 50.6% nationwide are “very likely” to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the survey.

White respondents reported largely positive emotional responses to the prospect of vaccination, while African American respondents reported largely negative emotions.

“Fear is clearly a major driver of vaccine hesitancy, and not the only one,” said Dr. Brian Sullivan, PsyD, chief science officer at ADoH SCIENTIFIC. “It’s critically important to understand the variety and intensities of feelings driving this hesitancy.”

The data from ADoH SCIENTIFIC will be used by a consortium of South Carolina-based community organizations, including SCDHEC and Closing the Gap in Healthcare, to develop the “I Got It!” Campaign. The campaign will harness the emotional insights from the study to “dispel historical myths, engage the Black community, calm fears and inspire vaccine uptake,” said Tony Clark, director of community outreach and development at Closing the Gap in Healthcare.

“The COVID-19 crisis is hurting all our communities, but not equally. It is more important now than ever that we clearly communicate the importance of taking the COVID-19 vaccine to communities of color across the U.S, but particularly in Black communities in South Carolina and the Southeast,” said Dr. Kylon Jerome Middleton, senior pastor at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church and Charleston County Councilman - District 6.