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Vaccine Mistrust among Some Caregivers Puts Seniors at Risk

 

Last updated 5/1/2021 at 2:01pm | View PDF

Just 63% of family caregivers who have doubts about COVID-19 vaccine safety say they'll take the senior under their care to get vaccinated. That's according to a new survey of U.S. family caregivers conducted by Wakefield Research for SCAN Health Plan, one of the nation's largest not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans.

"These findings should ring alarm bells throughout the country," said Eve Gelb, senior vice president of healthcare services for SCAN. "Family caregivers are the linchpin in our healthcare system. They make crucial decisions every day that affect the health of the people they care for. That's why it's so important that they trust the vaccines and get the person under their care vaccinated."

The survey polled 1,000 U.S. family caregivers who provide care for a family member older than 65, with oversamples for 400 Hispanic and 400 Black respondents. Nationally, there are 53 million family caregivers in the United States, providing care to adults and children with an array of needs.

Among all caregivers surveyed, 71% harbor doubts about the vaccines' safety and about 1 in 5 caregivers (19%) do not plan to take the person under their care to get vaccinated. Looking at communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, 13% of Hispanic caregivers and 25% of Black caregivers do not plan to take the senior under their care to get vaccinated.

The survey also asked caregivers whether they'd get the vaccine for themselves. Overall, nearly half of American family caregivers (47%) would either delay or refuse COVID-19 vaccination when offered to them.

"It's just as important for caregivers to get the vaccine for themselves as it is for them to get it for the people they care for," said Dr. Romilla Batra, a practicing internist who serves as SCAN's chief medical officer. "In addition to exposing their loved one to the virus, if they become sick themselves, they may not be able to provide vital day-to-day care for the person they support."

Among those who would delay or reject the vaccine, safety is a top concern. Nearly three in four caregivers who would delay or reject the vaccine (73%) cite safety concerns as the top reason.

Building Trust

SCAN commissioned the survey as a means to better understand its members' attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccines so the health plan can find innovative ways to build trust in them.

Gelb noted a quarter of Black caregivers (25%) and even more Hispanic caregivers (28%) say their insurance provider is one of their most trusted resources for COVID-19 vaccine information.

Gelb also stated that all of the respondents said they have high levels of trust in their physicians and public health officials. SCAN has recently implemented several programs involving both groups to conduct member outreach about the importance of vaccinations.

"We know we have our work cut out for us," said Gelb. "But the good news is we know exactly what that work is."

Additional Findings

• More than two-thirds of Black caregivers (77%) have doubts that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe.

• 59% of Black caregivers would delay or refuse to get the vaccine.

• Higher levels of mistrust in the Black community may result in even lower vaccination rates among Black seniors. A quarter of Black caregivers (25%) do not plan to take the senior in their care to get vaccinated.

• Despite evidence to the contrary, 74% of Hispanic caregivers have doubts that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe.

• About half (49%) would delay or refuse to get the vaccine.

• More than one in 10 Hispanic caregivers (13%) do not plan to take the senior in their care to get vaccinated.

 

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