COVID Update: Addressing Vaccine Confidence and Hesitancy

The CDC has launched a Vaccinate with Confidence program aimed at strengthening vaccine confidence and preventing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. Vaccinate with Confidence advances three key priorities: protecting communities, empowering families, and stopping the spread of vaccine myths. Vaccination rates have remained strong on a national level, but there are communities with lagging vaccination rates still at risk for COVID outbreaks. These communities are a top priority for vaccination efforts by the CDC and their states, cities, and counties. The trust in vaccines is a grassroots effort made by conversations between healthcare professionals, community members, and patients. Vaccinate with Confidence aims to start these conversations earlier, with parents of very young children and pregnant women. The CDC offers vaccine education for patients in various formats—flyers, fact sheets, videos, and web buttons here. These tools are useful for expanding the support of vaccine conversations when used as a toolkit for addressing patients’ questions. Misinformation can corrode any trust the public has in the vaccine. The Vaccinate with Confidence program works with local partners, such as social media companies, and trusted messengers to amplify confidence in vaccines among high-risk cohorts. Another goal of this effort is to reach critical community members to provide clear information about vaccination and the vital role it plays in protecting the public.

Social scientists are devising methods to fight against the spread of coronavirus misinformation and disinformation. They have found that it is not as simple as providing people with correct information and the benefits of receiving the vaccine. It appears that a person adopts a behavior only after reinforcement from multiple people, which generally happens sooner in a neighborhood network than a randomly associated network. This highlights the importance of community-based vaccine conversations.

Responding to Concerns About Vaccines

There are many resources that can provide medical professionals with background information to aid in their discussions with concerned parents or patients. This next section serves as a “table of contents” of resources for usual topics of concern. Click on the topic names highlighted in blue for handouts and educational material from myriad professional institutions and administrations.

Vaccine hesitancy in rural America is a cause for concern, as rural residents are among the most vaccine hesitant groups. There are many factors associated with the willingness to get the COVID vaccine including their level of education, age, and their political party identification. These elements do not explain the overall greater hesitancy of rural Americans to get the vaccine. Rural residents are just as likely as those living in urban/suburban communities to know someone who has tested positive or passed away from COVID, but four in ten rural residents (39%) say they are not worried they or someone they know will get sick from COVID. When it comes down to reaching these residents, 86% of rural Americans say they trust their own doctors or health care providers to provide valid and reliable information about COVID-19 vaccines. This percentage lowers significantly when the source of information changes to the FDA, CDC, their local health department, Dr. Fauci, or their state government officials. This goes back to the necessity for community-based conversations held by local health care professionals and trusted messengers. (The numbers: KFF Health Tracking Poll/ KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor).