October 25, 2017

There is a consistent racial disparity in seasonal influenza vaccination, with African American adults receiving the vaccine at lower rates than whites. Overall, flu vaccination rates for adults fall below target. Because African Americans experience a greater burden of chronic diseases that increases their risk of serious complications from the flu, there is a distinct impetus to raise vaccination rates within this group.

A new study led by researchers at the School of Public Health and the University of Georgia, explored the determinants of trust in flu vaccines among adults, including trust in its efficacy and in the vaccine production process. The results were published in November issue of the journal Social Science and Medicine.

“There has been little consistency in the way researchers have measured trust in vaccines,” the study noted. The authors included Principal Investigator, Dr. Sandra Quinn of the Center for Health Equity, Amelia Jamison a research assistant at the center, Gregory Hancock of the School of Education and Vicki Freimuth of the University of Georgia.

“We explored these types of vaccine-related trust to see if people discriminate among them and if there are patterns of racial differences,” Dr. Quinn said. “One unique aspect of our study was the examination of trust in the vaccine production process. We created an infographic to depict all of the organizations involved in the process to assess trust in each individually, and the process overall.”

Their key findings include:

  • African Americans express lower trust than whites for most trust measures;
  • The relationship between general trust and specific vaccine trust is similar between races;
  • Psychosocial factors are significantly associated with levels of trust towards flu vaccines; and
  • Racial differences in trust may contribute to disparities in adult influenza immunization.

The authors used data from their 2015 national sample of African American and white adults. They identified several key demographic, racial, and ideological factors that could predict trust in the flu vaccine and in the vaccine process. The authors state “while some of the predictors of trust in the flu vaccine are not amenable to change such as demographics and generalized trust, there are psychosocial variables that offer potential guidance for improving promotion of the flu vaccine. However, it is critical that messages be tailored differently for African Americans and whites.” They also point on that tailoring within each of these groups is critical, as age, income, education, and political ideology impact trust. Additionally, African Americans have lower trust in health care professionals and in the vaccine process, suggesting a specific importance of health care providers building more trusting relationships with African American patients.  

“With African Americans expressing lower trust in the flu vaccine and the vaccine process than White adults, and “given that the longstanding racial disparity in influenza immunization places African American adults at risk for influenza-related morbidity and mortality,” the authors stress the importance of enhancing trust in the flu vaccine and vaccine process to facilitate vaccine uptake and that “targeted messages from health care providers and public health agencies can facilitate improved trust.”

The article, Determinants of trust in the flu vaccine for African Americans and Whites, was published in the November 2017 issue of Social Science & Medicine.

Article citation:

Freimuth, Vicki S., Amelia M. Jamison, Ji An, Gregory R. Hancock, and Sandra Crouse Quinn. 2017. Determinants of trust in the flu vaccine for African Americans and Whites. Social Science & Medicine. 193:70-79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.U2017.10.001

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