Arkansas State University to study vaccine hesitancy

by George Jared ([email protected]) 508 views 

Many who live in rural parts of the Natural State were hesitant to take any of the COVID-19 vaccines offered after the pandemic engulfed the world in 2020. This was especially true in some minority communities, surveys have shown.

Scientists and other health professionals are now trying to get a better understanding as to why. Arkansas State University received a $32,000 grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to study the issue. The length and complete scope of the research was not detailed.

Dr. Amanda Carpenter, assistant professor of public health in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, and Dr. Cameron Wimpy, assistant professor of political science and interim department chair, will serve as the co-primary investigators.

They will conduct initial research to determine why some have vaccine hesitancy, developing and piloting informational messages based on the initial research and working with student ambassadors to disseminate information aimed at reducing barriers and challenges to vaccine hesitancy among high-risk populations.

“There were several populations at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 who were also more likely to be living in rural communities,” said Carpenter.

She said those in these communities had limited resources for testing, treatment and vaccines.

“The purpose of this grant is to advance health equity and address COVID-19 health disparities among higher risk and underserved populations,” said Carpenter.

The grant allows Carpenter and Wimpy to begin the research for their grant titled “Arkansas Initiative to Address COVID-19 Health Disparities for High Risk and Underserved, Including Racial and Ethnic Minority Populations.”

“We are planning to conduct formative, qualitative research with higher-risk populations to better understand the reasons for vaccine hesitancy,” said Carpenter. After this phase is complete, she said they plan to develop messages with the intention to change the minds of those who are part of the high-risk population and their behavior toward vaccinations.

Carpenter said that this topic is necessary to study.

“Vaccination is one of the best responses that we have to reduce both the rate and severity of disease. Vaccines teach our immune systems to recognize pathogens that cause disease,” she said.