BYU study shows COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

Professor Jamie Jensen and PhD Biology student Danny Ferguson analyze data and charts on the computer for their research. Jensen was one of the professors involved in the vaccine study. (Mahealani Kaloi)

A recent study conducted by BYU professors and students, published on Oct. 3, found two major discoveries regarding people’s attitudes towards a COVID-19 vaccine.

One discovery highlighted people’s pre-existing attitudes towards vaccines greatly influenced their willingness to take the COVID-19 vaccine. The other big finding was people’s willingness to take the vaccine depended on how much they felt the coronavirus is affecting the country.

“The most exciting thing for me is the idea that taking community responsibility and people caring about the state of the country was part of the intent to be vaccinated. People want to help out and they care,” said molecular and microbiology professor Brian Poole.

Poole has studied vaccine hesitancy in the past and wanted to see how that changed during a pandemic. The number of people who are against or hesitant about vaccines has been rising recently, which is “causing harm,” he said.

The study also found that political affiliation had no correlation with attitudes on getting the vaccine, but price, safety, income level, satisfaction with healthcare and education level had strong correlations.

The study, titled “Influences on attitudes regarding potential COVID-19 vaccination in the United States,” consisted of a survey sent to 300 people randomly distributed across the country to analyze the factors that predict vaccine uptakes.

The study was conducted to understand what people are thinking about the coronavirus and vaccines. The survey included questions that ranged from basic demographic questions like geographic region, age, sexuality, gender, religion and political affiliation to bigger questions about vaccine efficacy, general attitudes on vaccines, safety of the vaccine and more.

The study states that “most study subjects were agreeable towards vaccination for COVID-19, although only 46.11% of respondents ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement ‘I am likely to be vaccinated for COVID-19 when a vaccine becomes available.'”

The study said another 22.46% “somewhat agree” to the statement. This means a total of 68.57% of respondents indicated they were “amenable,” or open and responsive, to receiving a vaccine.

“A vaccine is the best tool we’re going to have to get our lives back to normal after this pandemic,” said biology professor Jamie Jensen who helped analyze the data of this study. The importance of this study, she said, is to learn everything they can about people’s attitudes toward the vaccine so they can best know how to get the vaccine out.

When making public campaigns for the vaccines, “emphasizing that by taking the vaccine you are protecting America and protecting everyone around you” will convince more people to get the vaccine, and overall infection rates can drop, Jensen said.

Kendall Pogue, a microbiology junior at BYU and first author of the study, said it was interesting to dive in and find out what people “really thought” about the coronavirus and the vaccine. Because the survey results were only sent to the lab Pogue works with, the people participating were “brutally honest” with their answers, since they knew only a handful of people would see them.

Pogue said she hopes this study encourages people to do their own research, trust science and find reliable sources to help them decide what is true amid all the false information floating around on the internet.

“It’s important to remember that in order for the pandemic to be over, we can’t just rely on a vaccine. We must rely on ourselves as well,” she said.

The study found that many people are hesitant about a specific COVID-19 vaccine because they worry it has been rushed in the production process. People are also mainly concerned about the safety and side effects of the vaccine.

Poole said he hopes to “educate and alleviate people’s concerns about vaccines so they can be more confident in the medical progress and the real dramatic benefits that vaccines provide.”

“We all say we want the vaccine, but really we want something that works,” Pogue said.

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