Arkansas’ vaccine hesitancy is about ‘trust, fear, race or ethnicity,’ study shows


"[Vaccine] hesitancy is also about feelings and trust and the social meanings."

Getty Images.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Three socio-demographic factors may determine whether people get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).

  • Trust in vaccines
  • Fear of infection
  • Race or ethnicity

In the study, “COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy: Race/Ethnicity, Trust and Fear,” published in Clinical and Translational Science, researchers found that the majority of respondents who were surveyed in July and August of 2020 were not hesitant. Only about one in five (21%) reported vaccine hesitancy.

“The researchers surveyed 1,205 adult Arkansans online in July and August 2020 to determine vaccine hesitancy based on socio-demographics, COVID-19 health literacy, fear of COVID-19 infection, and general trust in vaccines,” according to the UAMS statement.

That changed when researchers added socio-demographic factors | age, sex, race, ethnicity, income, and education.

Subjects who were more likely to be vaccine-hesitant were younger, African American, lower-income or had some college or a technical degree compared to those who were older, white, higher income, and had a four-year college degree.

Prevalence of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy:

  • Highest among African Americans (50%)
  • Respondents with household income less than $25,000 (30.68%)
  • People with some college (32.17%)
  • People with little to no fear of infection from COVID-19 (62.50%)
  • People with low trust in vaccines in general (55.84%)

Odds of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy were:

  • 2.42 greater for African American respondents compared to white respondents
  • 1.67 greater for respondents with some college or a technical degree compared to respondents with a four-year degree
  • 5.48 greater for respondents with no fear of COVID-19 infection compared to those who fear infection to a great extent
  • 11.32 greater for respondents with low trust in vaccines in general

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is about trust. “[Vaccine] hesitancy is also about feelings and trust and the social meanings that we attach to vaccines, as well as past experiences and historical legacies of medical racism,” according to Don Willis, Ph.D., co-principal investigator and lead author on the research study.

“It’s like you’re hanging on to the edge of a cliff and someone throws you a rope,” Willis said in a recent conversation on the ASCPT Podcast Channel. “You’re terrified to fall, but you are also not sure if you can trust the strength of the rope or the person that threw you the rope.” Willis was inferencing about people who are afraid of infection and hesitant toward the vaccine.


The project was supported by the UAMS Translational Research Institute, which is funded by a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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