LOUISVILLE, Ky — Most Jefferson County residents — 91% — would choose to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a survey conducted as part of the Co-Immunity Project, which includes ongoing research to better understand the impact of COVID-19 in the Louisville.
The survey was conducted in February when researchers asked adults living in Jefferson County their perceptions about the coronavirus vaccine to identify potential barriers and to better understand vaccine hesitancy.
Letters were mailed to nearly 36,000 households in the county inviting them to participate in the survey as well as make an appointment for free testing for COVID-19, also part of the Co-Immunity Project. Most of the 1,296 survey participants were age 60 or over (44%), female (61%) and white (84%), and 90.2% reported being unvaccinated.
“We wanted to better understand which residents had access to the vaccine as well as their attitudes toward the vaccine,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, director of the UofL Brown Envirome Institute. “This information would help us improve equity in vaccine availability as well as help us understand the reasons behind vaccine hesitancy in our community. So, we incorporated the survey opportunity into our outreach for random community testing for the virus.”
The majority of participants in the survey — 91% — indicated they would choose to be vaccinated, with slightly lower rates among minority participants, officials said.
Participants who were "vaccine-hesitant" suggested they needed more evidence of safety and effectiveness of the vaccine or that a recommendation from their health provider would increase their likelihood of getting vaccinated, according to the survey.
Most participants said they were hesitant to get the vaccine because they were concerned about side effects and safety, followed by not “tested on enough people who are like me,” minority participants expressed these concerns at higher rates, officials said.
Other concerns were related to the effectiveness of the vaccines, vaccines in general, and government mistrust, officials said.
Also, concerns about cost were seen in more than half the participants although vaccines are provided for free, according to the survey.
About 3% of white and 8% of minority participants indicated they would never choose vaccination.
"Minority participants reported they were more likely to choose vaccination with celebrity endorsement, offerings by faith organizations and vaccination requirements. White participants were more likely to choose vaccination if their family and friends or elected officials were vaccinated and with evidence of efficacy," officials said in a press release.
Other concerns were related to the efficacy of the vaccines, vaccines in general, and government mistrust.
"Most participants said they would prefer to be vaccinated by their health care provider, followed by a mobile or walk-in clinic, a pharmacy or a hospital. Other sites, such as community organizations, community recreation centers, workplaces or schools were of interest to one-fourth or less of participants. Minority participants were less interested in vaccination at work, pharmacies, libraries and mobile or walk-up clinics and more interested in being vaccinated at food distribution centers or by their health care provider," officials said.
Compared with white participants, minority participants were less likely to report knowing how to find out their vaccine eligibility or sign up for vaccination, according to the survey.
“Obtaining information on how to get a vaccine continues to be burdensome and solutions to this problem will help with more equitable vaccine distribution,” said Rachel Keith, assistant professor in the UofL Department of Medicine and a lead investigator in the Co-Immunity Project.