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Seeking to understand vaccine hesitancy
August 4, 2021

By Adanya, Rahman, and Enirah | August 2021 … Vaccines against COVID-19 are now widely available to people age 12 and older. As part of our internship in the Public Health Pipeline Plus (PHPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania, we have been exploring the COVID-19 vaccine and the various opinions people hold about the vaccine — specifically the reasons why some may be unwilling to receive it. These reasons range from distrust in the medical community and the government to a lack of accessibility to vaccination clinics. 

Understanding vaccine hesitancy is important because outreach is essential to public health. As public health interns, we hoped to understand the different viewpoints of different people and the reasons they don’t feel that getting the vaccine is in their best interests. 

Once enough people have received the COVID-19 vaccine, the general public will reach herd immunity. Because it is so important that we reach that goal, we hope to alleviate the fears about and distrust of the vaccine by educating others about what is really going on.

Using our research and discussions, we put together a COVID-19 vaccination survey. We hoped the results of the survey would help us gain a better understanding of the many different views people have on the COVID-19 vaccine and how these views correlate with their demographics. We shared the survey with people we knew, as well as on social media, in emails, and through a presentation in front of a large group of other interns. We were very excited that in just one week, we received 187 responses to our survey.

We were surprised to learn that almost a third of the responses (30.5%) were from people who did not receive the vaccine, especially because the majority of responses received were from participants aged 12-18 (55.5%). When the vaccine eligibility dropped to 12 years old, we tried to get vaccinated as soon as possible before the school year started and assumed our peers would be doing the same. We found that from the group of people we surveyed, 34% agreed with the statement that they trusted the COVID-19 vaccine, 18.2% said they strongly agreed, 4.3% did not agree, and 5.9% strongly disagreed. However, it is worth noting that the majority of the participants, about 37%, said that they were neutral in deciding whether they trusted the vaccine or not. One of the reasons people gave for not getting the vaccine was because they would like to wait a bit longer because the vaccine is relatively new.

Now that we have the responses to this survey, we plan to educate the public by creating a pamphlet and by putting together a PowerPoint that contains information about COVID-19 vaccinations and where to get them. Our team hopes to use our research to combat vaccine hesitancy in our community. We’re excited to go back to school this fall and hope more students choose to get vaccinated so we can have a COVID-free school year!

Adanya, Rahman, and Enirah are interns in the Public Health Pipeline Plus program at the University of Pennsylvania. PHPP is a program that focuses on educating high school students about the importance and applications of public health in our daily lives. Adanya is a rising junior; Rahman and Enirah are rising seniors.

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