Exploring Motivations for COVID-19 Vaccination Among Black Young Adults in 3 Southern US States: Cross-sectional Study

Background: Few studies have focused on attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination among Black or African American young adults (BYA) in the Southern United States, despite high levels of infection in this population. Objective: To understand this gap, we conducted an online survey to explore beliefs and experiences related to COVID-19 vaccination among BYA (aged 18-29 years) in 3 southern states. Methods: We recruited 150 BYA to participate in an online survey as formative research for an intervention to address vaccine hesitancy in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina from September 22, 2021, to November 18, 2021. Participants were recruited through social media ads on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Additionally, we distributed information about the survey through organizations working with BYA in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina; our community partners; and network collaborations. We used measures that had been used and were previously validated in prior surveys, adapting them to the context of this study. Results: Roughly 28 (19%) of the participants had not received any doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Half of the unvaccinated respondents (n=14, 50%) reported they wanted to wait longer before getting vaccinated. Motivators to get vaccinated were similar between unvaccinated and vaccinated respondents (eg, if required, to protect the health of others), but the main motivator for those vaccinated was to protect one's own health. Among unvaccinated individuals, reasons for not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine included concern about vaccine side effects (n=15, 54%) and mistrust of vaccine safety (n=13, 46%), of effectiveness (n=12, 43%), and of the government's involvement with vaccines (n=12, 43%). Experiences of discrimination (n=60, 40%) and mistrust of vaccines (n=54, 36%) were common overall. Among all respondents, those who said they would be motivated to get vaccinated if it was required for school, work, or travel were more likely to endorse negative beliefs about vaccines compared to those motivated for other reasons. Conclusions: Mistrust in COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy is common among BYA in the Southern United States, irrespective of vaccination status. Other motivators, such as safety of family and community and vaccination requirements, may be able to tip the scales toward a decision to be vaccinated among those who are initially hesitant. However, it is unclear how vaccine requirements among BYA in the South affect trust in the government or health care in the long term. Interventions that include BYA in vaccination messaging and programs may more proactively build feelings of trust and combat misinformation.
COVID-19COVID-19 vaccination; health disparity; minority population; misinformation; online survey; vaccination beliefs; vaccination motivations; vaccine hesitancy; vaccine safety; young people.