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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland Research Shows Many African Americans Do Not Trust Flu Vaccines, While Many Whites Downplay the Seriousness of the Flu

New research conducted in part by Dr. Sandra Quinn at the University of Maryland’s Maryland Center for Health Equity looked at racial disparities in flu vaccinations and determined that many African Americans do not get flu vaccines because they do not trust them. Whites who skip the shot are more likely to do so because they downplay the severity of the flu.

[Photo: Dr. Sandra Quinn]

Seasonal flu vaccination rates are low for U.S. adults, with significant disparities between African and White Americans. Forty-one percent of African Americans get the flu shot, versus 47 percent of Whites.

“Risk perception is a significant predictor of vaccine behavior but the research on this construct has been flawed,” the study reads. “This study addressed critical research questions to understand the differences between African and White Americans in the role of risk perception in flu vaccine behavior: (1) What is the dimensionality of risk perception and does it differ between the two races?  (2) Were risk perceptions of White and African-American populations different and how were sociodemographic characteristics related to risk for each group? (3) What is the relation between risk perception and flu vaccine behaviors for African Americans and Whites?”

The sample consisted of 838 Whites and 819 African Americans, and measures of risk perception included both cognitive and emotional measures of disease risk, and the risk of side effects from the vaccine.

Results showed the importance of risk perception in the vaccine decision-making process for both racial groups. As expected, those who got the vaccine perceived a higher risk of contracting the flu than those who did not. Separate cognitive and emotional factors did not materialize in this study but strong evidence was found to support the importance of considering disease risk as well as risk of the vaccine. There were significant racial differences in the way risk perception predicted behavior.

“A lot of people have the sense that the flu vaccine itself can be very dangerous,” she said. “But it is tested every year. It goes through the whole clinical trial process every year. In that sense it is well-protected.”

Risk Analysis: “The Role of Risk Perception in Flu Vaccine Behavior among African-American and White Adults in the United States”