Black Americans most concerned about COVID-19 as public health threat, but vaccine skepticism still high

WASHINGTON — A new report finds African-Americans stand out from other demographics as the most concerned about the ongoing pandemic.

A comprehensive new survey by Pew Research Center reveals 81 percent of Blacks say the COVID-19 pandemic is a major public health threat. Nearly half (49%) believe the virus is a legitimate threat to their personal health as well. These are higher rates than the other three demographics in the poll (Whites, Hispanics, and Asians).

For comparison’s sake, only 57 percent and 26 percent of Caucasians in the Pew research have the same levels of concern, respectively. A total of 10,121 U.S. adults took part in this project, with 911 of those respondents being Black.

Just over a third of Black adults (35%) are concerned they’ll require hospitalization if they contract the coronavirus. Another 29 percent are at least “somewhat concerned” about being infected.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that African-Americans in particular are concerned about COVID-19. Just recently, studies revealed that life expectancy among Black Americans has dropped by over two years during the pandemic. In comparison, general U.S. population life expectancy has dropped by one year during the same time frame.

COVID’s impact on the Black community

Nearly four in five Black Americans know someone personally who has either been hospitalized or passed away due to COVID.

Notably, besides personal health concerns, African-Americans are also especially careful about spreading the coronavirus to others. Roughly four in 10 say they’re “very concerned” about spreading the deadly virus to someone else accidentally. Another 94 percent told researchers they always take the proper precautions (wearing a mask or gloves) when stepping outside.

Similarly, at least 70 percent of African-Americans in the poll fully support restrictions such as business and school closures. These respondents say such measures are necessary to curb the spread.

Vaccine skepticism is still an issue for African-Americans

Three in five African-Americans (61%) say they will “definitely or probably” receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Fifteen percent of this group have already been vaccinated. Matching the findings among other demographics, older Black men are more likely than their younger counterparts to want to be vaccinated. Also, Black men are more likely than Black women to pursue vaccination.

However, it isn’t all positivity surrounding the vaccine in Black communities. The numbers are still far lower than the 69 percent of White adults, 70 percent of Hispanics, and 91 percent of Asians planning to line up for the vaccine.

Black adults also express less enthusiasm and confidence in the vaccine than other demographics. One in three African-Americans say they have low trust in the vaccine R&D process. Among that group, only 26 percent are planning to get the shot.

Overall, 37 percent of surveyed African-Americans told researchers they won’t be getting vaccinated.

Within that subset, it’s clear concerns over side-effects are a driving force behind vaccine skepticism. Most respondents (84%) say they’re afraid of potential side-effects, while another 74 percent say they don’t trust the vaccine’s development process.

Seven in 10 would like access to more information on how well the vaccine works. Half of this group claims they’ve witnessed too many injustices and mistakes in the past directed toward African-Americans by the medical care system to feel comfortable about receiving the vaccine.