OU study demonstrates barriers to COVID-19 vaccination


ATHENS — A new study conducted at Ohio University shows that residents of Appalachian areas, younger Ohioans and Black and Hispanic residents are less likely to agree to a COVID-19 vaccine.

A survey focused on the knowledge, attitudes and practices of Ohioans found that while 59 percent of Ohioans are willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine if one is recommended, certain populations around the state bring that percentage down. The study’s insights could be used to create communication and policy interventions aimed at increasing the percentage of the population willing to get a vaccine.

“Our objective is to inform decision makers in the state of Ohio by providing rigorously collected data,” said OHIO professor Mario Grijalva, Ph.D., director of the Infectious and Tropical Disease Institute at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, which initiated the study. “This information can provide valuable insight as leaders develop and implement their plans for distributing COVID-19 vaccines across the state and seek to end the pandemic.”

Researchers surveyed more than 2,300 Ohio adults in January 2021. The survey found that 63.3 percent of suburban residents and 59.2 percent of metropolitan residents are willing to get a vaccine, but only 52.2 percent of rural Appalachian residents and 57.7 percent of rural non-Appalachian residents agreed.

By age group, residents age 18-24 had the lowest vaccine acceptance rate at 44.3 percent, while those age 55 and over had the highest at 72.4 percent. Women (54.2 percent) were also less likely to accept the vaccine than men (64 percent). White residents were also more likely (61 percent) to accept than Black (45.3 percent) or Hispanic (48.4 percent) residents.

Additionally, the study showed that less than half of residents with a high school diploma (49.7 percent) were accepting of vaccines while those with education beyond high school were much more accepting (70.7 percent). The study also found that younger people, men and blue-collar workers are less likely to adopt preventative measures like wearing a mask, washing hands and physical distancing than other groups.

Respondents who weren’t willing to get a vaccine cited cost, safety and efficacy as their main concerns.

“As Ohioans struggle to get past this pandemic, it’s very important for us to understand what factors are leading people to resist behaviors that will help, such as wearing masks and getting a vaccine,” said Kenneth Johnson, D.O., chief medical affairs officer at OHIO and executive dean of the Heritage College. “This understanding provides us with a greater opportunity to help people overcome fears and do what they can to eliminate COVID-19.”

The study included collaborators from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, College of Health Sciences and Professions, and Scripps College of Communication. The Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health also contributed to the study. The study was supported with funding from the Heritage College Research and Scholarly Awards Committee.

Information provided by Ohio University.