Monday, May 17, 2021

Now the road to community immunity begins

Full community immunity may rely on outreach.

The first 90 million Americans to get vaccinated may be the easy part. Now begins the long road to reach 75%, at which herd immunity (I like the term community immunity much better) can be reached. But now it turns out according to a study from Brown University that the problem may not be hardened hearts but lack of information about where to get vaccinated and how and by whom.

In other words, don't overthink things.

Stefanie Friedhoff is a professor of the practice in health services, policy, and practice as well as strategy director at Brown University School of Public Health.

She writes in her blog:

"I lead a team at Brown University School of Public Health that is undertaking new research in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation and community organizations across the U.S. to understand people’s experiences regarding vaccination, public health, and the health care system more generally, rather than just their intentions about this specific vaccine. What we have learned so far from this survey, fielded by HIT Strategies in communities of color in five U.S. cities, is telling: Even though a majority of Black and Latino Americans want to get vaccinated — 72% in this survey — a surprising 63% said they didn’t have enough information about where to get the shot. In addition, more than 20% said they had regularly been treated with disrespect when getting health care in the past, and 20% said they have had trouble finding health care when needed.

"Despite these systemic barriers, only 3% of the total sample said that nothing at all would move them to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

"Everyone else, even those who said 'no' to getting a vaccine now, listed reasons that would motivate them to get a shot, such as 'seeing a person I trust get the vaccine' or having 'a vaccination site close to my home.'

"In fact, 'having more information' is the single most important concern expressed by those unsure about the Covid-19 vaccine, according to almost every poll that asks this question. This is true across the political spectrum. Blaming conservative Americans for taking their time or for believing lies, and labeling them as hesitant or resisters only hardens their viewpoints. Instead, the public health community needs to come to grips with what motivates people, and also with the harmful impact of misinformation on Americans who do not have access to quality information.

"It’s still a long road to getting most Americans vaccinated against Covid-19. It can be shortened by worrying less about today’s confidence polls and more about persistent barriers to vaccination. The health and public health communities need to continue the hard work of making vaccines ubiquitous and available without complex sign-up procedures — at churches, grocery stores, barber shops, food pantries, and yes, even in bars and restaurants.

"People’s questions must be answered and false narratives preempted by flooding online and offline spaces with high-quality information in the languages people speak on the platforms they frequent. Concerted effort is needed to expose misinformation tactics and how they are unleashed to generate confusion, as well as to regulate the platforms that empower them.

"For most Americans — and that includes conservatives — who are given the chance to discuss vaccination on their own terms and timelines and for whom vaccination is easy, nearby, and supported by employers, the question shifts from if they will get vaccinated to when and how."

Learn more about the vaccine, about Covid-19 and about public health in this new book:

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