Gabriel Sanchez and Shannon Sanchez-Youngman at The University of New Mexico are helping lead a national effort to understand effective COVID-19 vaccine messaging and hesitancy factors.
The massive American COVID-19 Vaccine Poll is a partnership between the African American Research Collaborative (AARC), The Commonwealth Fund, The National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), and other national organizations. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported an expansion of the poll in the Native American community and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation supported expansion in New Mexico through the UNM Center for Social Policy (CSP).
The poll surveyed about 13,000 people nationwide and included representation across genders and racial and ethnic communities. Using data from the U.S. Census to curate sample sizes representative of minority and underrepresented populations, researchers gathered answers from African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Whites, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and rural Americans. The sample included more than 2,000 surveys from New Mexicans representing views of Latino/Hispanics, Native Americans, immigrants and African Americans.
“This survey has the largest sample sizes of diverse communities in the United States and more depth in content than any other data that has been collected to date on vaccination hesitancy and messaging,” said Sanchez, lead UNM researcher on the project and executive director of the CSP. “The sheer size of the number of people we polled gave us more comprehensive understanding of Americans’ hesitancy towards getting the vaccine, and how we can overcome those concerns to encourage more people to get vaccinated.”
At this time, the Mayo Clinic reports about 45 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – about half of the percentage needed in order for the U.S. to reach herd immunity. More than six months after the first vaccine dose was administered in the United States, the American COVID-19 Vaccine Poll reveals which sub-groups have yet to pursue a shot (or second shot), why they haven’t taken that step, and what messaging methods work best to encourage them to do so. It took an in-depth look at these questions among many others:
- What are the primary drivers of vaccine hesitancy, particularly in rural regions and within communities of color? Are there differences based on race, nativity, language use and partisanship?
- What will it take to get non-vaccinated Americans to take a COVID-19 vaccine?
- How do parents feel about vaccinating their children against COVID-19?
- Should COVID-19 vaccines be mandatory for teachers and students in K-12 schools?
- Will Americans take booster vaccines or a combination Flu/COVID-19 vaccine annually?
“With about 60 percent of our state (ages 16+) now fully vaccinated, we’re looking at how to connect with those groups who have yet to make an appointment. Our goal is to be a research hub for vaccine outreach in New Mexico,” explained Sanchez-Youngman, assistant professor at the UNM College of Population Health. “Our team conducted research on the obstacles and solutions to vaccinating the communities in our state less confident in the vaccine; and we’re partnering with the NM Department of Health to overcome those challenges and hesitancies.”
Vaccine Hesitancy in New Mexico
Support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation allowed for an expansion of surveying in New Mexico. The in-depth analysis provided a deeper glimpse of which New Mexicans have yet to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and why. The survey found that out of the New Mexicans who have not received the vaccine, roughly a third (32 percent) do not plan on getting it. However, 44 percent of those in our state who are not yet vaccinated said that they would get a vaccine if it was requested by their employer.
The survey also found that 15 percent of New Mexicans who had their first shot do not plan to get their second dose. Many of those respondents said they think one shot is enough for them to feel protected. This insight into New Mexican’s thoughts, feelings and plans is helping local and state health officials better understand how to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with constituents. The survey also found people, particularly young adults and those living in urban areas, are incentivized by small gifts, which would increase vaccination rates. This finding supports the NMDOH programs, such as the Vax 2 the Max Sweepstakes, with will award $10 million in total prize money to New Mexicans who receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, among other prizes and awards throughout the summer.
“The statewide survey project included input many partners including the New Mexico Department of Health and has been integrated quickly into community outreach efforts. Our team moved quickly to summarize the messaging that was showing promise in the field and our partners put that into the field the final week of the push to 60% vaccination and I believe that helped put us over the top to fully open our economy” said Sanchez. "Although we are all focused on vaccination now, we know that there will be much more long-term needs in our communities. We therefore included content in the New Mexico version of the survey focused on mental health challenges, economic stressors, and discrimination experiences of our states residents.”
In addition, UNM CSP research is helping to build on established community-centered vaccination strategy. The aim is to ensure racial equity, strengthen community support and address the long-term health needs of communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 in New Mexico. Sanchez says that the partnership between the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH), the Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center, the Con Alma Health Foundation and UNM will ensure that New Mexico has data-driven solutions for challenges that can us address the structural inequalities that have been exposed during the pandemic.
This project was supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.