Black Americans more skeptical than ever about COVID-19 vaccine: Harris Poll

Black Americans’ confidence in COVID-19 vaccines is plummeting. Only 43% of Black Americans now say they will get a vaccine once it's available, down 22 percentage points since August, The Harris Poll found.

White Americans' willingness to vaccinate has also faltered, just not as much. Currently, 58% of white people surveyed will get a vaccine when it comes out, down 11 percentage points since August.

The numbers seem to reflect the ongoing disparity, now exacerbated by the pandemic, in health access, treatment and information for people of color.

Along with confidence in emerging vaccines, overall trust in different sources to give honest information about COVID-19 is generally lower among people of color. Black people in the U.S., for instance, trust doctors and nurses less than white people do, with 72% counting them as a trusted source compared with 87% of white people.

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“Most sources of information are less trusted by Black Americans, so there’s more skepticism overall,” The Harris Poll Managing Director Rob Jekielek said. But "there are some sources that Black Americans do trust more than white Americans,” he added.

When it comes to social media, for instance, 55% of Black people surveyed trust it compared with 32% of white people. The national media is similar—63% of Black Americans agree it can be trusted, versus 48% of white people.

However, social media and news programming is often rife with opinions and even false information, which can create problems when trying to disseminate vaccine and general health information.

Black Americans' specific opinions around the pharma industry show gaps as well. When asked if they agree with the statement "Pharma companies are doing the best they can to address COVID-19," 79% of white Americans agreed, but only 67% of Black Americans did.

There were some positive sentiments for pharma across all respondents. Most Americans (77%) agreed that pharma companies are doing a better job than they used to at understanding healthcare needs and challenges for people of color, and 74% agreed that pharma companies aim to address inequalities in healthcare based on factors such as race.

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Pharma companies are preparing general campaigns to convince people to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but they also recognize the specific challenge in reaching people of color.

Johnson & Johnson's head of pharma, Jennifer Taubert, said last week that the company is preparing a wide swath of efforts that includes a focus on local pushes to reach minority groups.

“There’s a lot of work that's underway to help develop and build vaccine confidence across the board by different types of audiences,” she said on the company's third-quarter earnings call. “So everything from making sure that providers, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, people who would be involved in the administration have accurate information and information that they can use with their patients, because they're viewed so positively to broad campaigns, to even very targeted local campaigns to add on specific minority populations, who otherwise might not be as receptive.”