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Living in Boston During COVID-19 Report Assesses Vaccination Hesitation

DeWayne Lehman | Wed Jan 13, 2021

Bostonians’ Interest in Receiving Vaccine Lower in Communities of Color, Among Women

A newly released National Science Foundation-funded report by UMass Boston researchers finds that 1 in 5 Bostonians plan to not get vaccinated, nearly half of Black Bostonians say they have little or no interest in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, and more than a quarter of Hispanics say the same. A quarter of women also say they will not get the vaccine.

These findings are among those included in Living in Boston During COVID-19: Vaccination Hesitation, the fifth report in a research project that is a collaboration among the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) at Northeastern University, UMass Boston, and the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC). UMass Boston Interim Director for the Center for Survey Research Lee Hargraves and Sociology Professor Russell Schutt served as lead authors of the report.

“The reasons for the disparities identified by this research are complex and deep-seated – from cultural differences to the assault on science to the horrific history of medical experimentation and abuse that was especially acute in U.S. racialized populations.  It’s understandable why some folks might be skeptical,” said UMass Boston Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco.  “This important work will help inform the public health community’s battle against the pandemic with real-time, science-based data.  I’m proud of and grateful to professors Lee Hargraves and Russell Schutt for their leadership on this project.”

“This information may help identify people who are reluctant to get vaccinated and assist efforts to tailor messages to Boston residents who have reservations about the coronavirus vaccine,” said Hargraves. “The intent is that these results will be useful for community and public health leaders who are encouraging Boston residents to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

In the summer of 2020, BARI, UMass Boston’s Center for Survey Research, and BPHC conducted a survey among 1,626 Bostonians about their experiences during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the fall, the partnership followed up with an additional web-based and mailed survey that asked about plans for getting the vaccine and other questions.

The most significant findings in the report include:          

  • Black and Latinx Bostonians  are more hesitant to get vaccinated than whites.
    • Almost 50% of Black respondents stated they definitely do not or probably do not plan to get the vaccine.  
    • Over 1 in 4 Latinx respondents said they do not plan to get the vaccine. 
    • Over 90% of white and Asian/Pacific Islanders are probably or definitely planning to get vaccinated.
  • Respondents with less formal education have less enthusiasm regarding their plans to get vaccinated, compared to those with a college education.      
    • About half of college-educated respondents definitely plan to get vaccinated, compared to less than one-third of those with less than a college education.
    • Over 1 in 4 respondents with less than a college education report that they do not plan to get the vaccination.
  • Men and women have different plans to get vaccinated.
    • Over 1 in 4 women do not plan to get vaccinated, while about 1 in 6 men do not plan to get vaccinated.
    • About half of men “definitely” plan to get the vaccine, compared to 36% of women.
  • For the most part, the more worried Boston respondents are about COVID-19 infection for themselves or family members, the more likely they are to get the vaccine. But among people who are extremely worried about COVID-19, about a third probably or definitely do not plan on getting the vaccine. For these people, worry about the virus and worry about the vaccine may go together.

“Efforts to encourage vaccination for COVID-19 will be facilitated by public health efforts that are sensitive to differences in people’s fears about the coronavirus as well as vaccines,” said Hargraves. “As the spring of 2021 approaches, more people will likely have some personal contact with someone who has been vaccinated and that will help get to the proportion of the population vaccinated needed to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 infection. However, there are some neighborhoods, particularly communities of color, where trusted members of the community may be the best resources to listen to people’s concerns and provide personalized information to diverse audiences.”

The full report and findings are available on the BARI website, as are the previous reports from the research project.

The UMass Boston research team also includes Floyd (Jack) Fowler, a senior research fellow at the Center for Survey Research; Anthony Roman, a senior research fellow at the Center for Survey Research; Hannah Grabowski, a research assistant and student in the Graduate Program in Applied Sociology; and Nikola Kovacevic, assistant study director in the Center for Survey Research.


About UMass Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research addressing complex issues, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s colleges and graduate schools serve more than 16,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit www.umb.edu.