Missouri Foundation for Health Commissions Research on Attitudes and Perceptions of COVID-19 Vaccines



Contact: Molly Crisp
Missouri Foundation for Health
(314) 345-5579

Missouri Foundation for Health Commissions Research on Attitudes and Perceptions of COVID-19 Vaccines
Results to Inform Efforts to Effectively Talk About COVID Vaccines in Specific Communities

ST. LOUIS, MO (March 24, 2021) – Against the backdrop of systemic inequities in public health, ongoing misinformation, and the increasing politicization of vaccines, reaching the 70-90% vaccination rate needed to hit broad-scale immunity will be challenging. To understand how to effectively encourage people to get vaccinated, Missouri Foundation for Health launched a research project to better understand attitudes and perceptions about COVID vaccines to ensure all Missourians are included in public education efforts.

Partnering with Betty&Smith and PerryUndem, the Foundation held a series of statewide focus groups to determine how to build confidence in COVID vaccines. The qualitative research, which focused on Black and Hispanic adults, specifically those in rural communities, examined how historic, systemic, community, and personal experiences influence views as well as how regional differences might impact perceptions of the pandemic and vaccines.

For Black and Hispanic adults, distrust around COVID vaccines is deeply embedded in structural inequities in government institutions and a result of a long and continuing history of racism in health care. Detailed in the discussions, both groups shared their experiences of mistreatment and neglect by the government and health care system. This reality is reflected present day, including the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on underserved groups. Because overcoming distrust is essential to increasing vaccine uptake, the Foundation concentrated its efforts on developing evidence-based communication that is culturally responsive and includes first-hand perspectives. The research identified trusted individuals within communities sharing positive vaccination experiences as a core strategy for success. Relying on research-based recommendations, the Foundation aims to boost vaccination understanding in communities that have been most harmed by COVID-19.

“Research is really powerful, especially in driving change. You pair research with strategic communications, and you have the perfect changemaking formula,” Courtney Z. Stewart, Vice President of Strategic Communications, said. “This enables us to be more intentional and precise in our efforts to educate underserved communities about the vaccine. We’re trying to cut through the misinformation and deliver fact-based materials that resonate well. With the right information, those hit hardest by this pandemic can make the best choice for themselves and their families, and that’s what this is about.”

While many reported they are staying informed about the vaccines, questions and misinformation about the safety and efficacy of vaccines need to be addressed before some participants said they would feel comfortable receiving a dose. In addition to generalized distrust, other top concerns include potential side effects, long-term impacts, and the ingredients of the vaccines. Drawing on the insights from the focus groups, researchers tested a range of messages to alleviate concerns and motivate people to get vaccinated. The Foundation will share the toolkit with recommendations tailored to specific communities with organizations in Missouri to help with outreach.

Based on the research, some considerations include:
  • Remind people that getting vaccinated is their choice.
  • Underscore the benefit to the community, particularly with Black and Hispanic audiences.
  • Handle mistrust of government with a broad array of diverse validators.
  • Continue to remind people that vaccines are safe, tested, and free.
  • Reference everyone’s desire to get back to life as we know it – jobs, family gatherings, seeing friends, etc.
These findings and other practical tips will be presented on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at 11:30 a.m. CT. For those interested in attending to learn more about the work, please register here.

Missouri Foundation for Health is building a more equitable future through collaboration, convening, knowledge sharing, and strategic investment. Working in partnership with communities and nonprofits, MFH is transforming systems to eliminate inequities within all aspects of health and addressing the social and economic factors that shape health outcomes.