BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Many people across the state are waiting for their turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but some are planning to skip it once it’s available to them.
“One thing is a lot of mistrust, deep mistrust,” Dr. Mona Fouad, UAB director of the Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center said.
Dr. Fouad is conducting a two part study. She said 11 states were chosen for the study based on high COVID case numbers and larger populations with health disparities. Part one is focus groups of 66 people from Jefferson, Dallas and Mobile counties. She said the study is focused specifically on minority groups.
“We did that because we know that there is some hesitancy among these groups more than other,” Fouad said. “We are trying to address the groups that have high risks.”
Dr. Fouad said before the study, she knew there was concern surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, but was surprised at what she learned.
“We knew that there is hesitancy, but out of 66 people that we talked to, only 11 said for sure would take the vaccine,” Fouad said. “Some said “no.” A lot of them said ‘Oh we are going to wait and see what is going to happen to others that take it’ and then we will take it.”
She said the study is to learn why some people don’t want to take the vaccine and what it will take for them to take it.
She said many people in the focus groups said they don’t trust government or officials. She reported some are worried about the development of the vaccine and it’s safety. She said many people also reported mixed messages and concern about where to go if they have side effects.
“We don’t want to be guinea pigs,” Dr. Fouad said was a popular response. “People remember the Tuskegee experiment. Every group brought up Tuskegee, (asking) are we going to get Tuskegee again?”
She said many people reported having fears of catching the virus from the vaccine.
“They were scared about getting COVID from the vaccine and then they just want more transparent information and unified messages,” Dr. Fouad said.
Dr. Fouad said when asked what it would take to get the vaccine, many replied saying they want to hear the same message from people in the community that they trust.
“They wanted a lot of community engagement,” she said. “Talk with the community. Get with the community and answer their questions, so they would feel comfortable about the information.”
Dr. Fouad said phase two of the study will work to try and address fears surrounding the vaccine.
“We are developing videos with segments and social media,” Dr. Fouad said. “We are developing messages to start getting it out into the community.”
Dr. Fouad said she encourages everyone to take the vaccine, but said she understands why people are hesitant.
“We are taking your concerns very very seriously,” Fouad said. “It is okay to have concerns, but we are taking it seriously so we can address it.”
Dr. Fouad said phase 2 of the study will begin at the end of the month. She said they will survey more people across the state to get even larger feedback.