AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — A week before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, researchers at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) began surveying CSRA residents. They teamed up with 100 Black of Augusta to learn which groups, among the African American community, were accepting, hesitant or resistant of the COVID-19 vaccine. They held six events at churches and barbershops between December 2020 and April 2021, offering free COVID-19 testing, passing out personal protective equipment and asking community members to fill out a survey.
Based on 257 responses, researchers found that “age and housing insecurity were two of the biggest determinants in terms of predicting or being associated with vaccine hesitancy,” according to Dr. Justin Moore, an epidemiologist at the Medical College of Georgia.
“Those between 18 and 29-years-old were 22 times more likely to say. ‘No I’m not getting a COVID-19 vaccine,'” Moore explains. “Then, there were those who faced housing insecurity. That means either someone who had difficulty paying rent or mortgage, or lost their home due to the pandemic. They were about seven times more likely to be COVID-19 resistant or hesitant.”
This data will be used to help MCG learn how to direct its messaging and connect with members of these communities.
“We’re trying to figure out what we can do better to not necessarily push anything on someone, but provide people with informed evidence so they can make an informed decision.”
Moore tells NewsChannel 6 his team was successful during their research. They vaccinated about 30 people, including some who were hesistant or resistant when they were initially surveyed.
“I’m proud to say we were able to convince a few people who were hesitant, who were on the younger scale, to get vaccinated.”
MCG’s work is not done yet. A majority of the CSRA’s population remains unvaccinated. Moore and his team will keep seeking answers and plan to dig deeper into why people are vaccine hesitant.
“Having these honest conversations with people is really, really important.”