African Americans (AAs) are disproportionately affected by structural and social determinants of health, resulting in greater risks of exposure to and deaths from COVID-19. Structural and social determinants of health feed vaccine hesitancy and worsen health disparities.
The present study aims to explore vaccine attitudes and intentions among program participants, understand the role of an African American faith-based wellness program in COVID-19 awareness and vaccine uptake, and solicit potential solutions for this deep-rooted public health problem.
Data were collected through 21 in-depth interviews among individuals involved within a community-based wellness program. Sixteen phone and five in-person interviews were conducted with church leaders, lifestyle coaches, and program participants. All interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and inductively and thematically analyzed by three researchers.
Live Well by Faith (LWBF) acted as a trusted information source for COVID-19 resources for the AA community. Services provided by Live Well by Faith included enrolling community members for vaccines, negotiating vaccine provision to and facilitating the establishment of vaccine clinics at AA churches, and connecting community members to healthcare providers. Despite the role Live Well by Faith played, VH was a significant concern due, in part, to historical mistrust of government and pharmaceutical companies conducting unethical healthcare research among Black populations. Other factors included uncertainty about vaccination (vaccines’ safety, efficacy, and necessity), social media misinformation, and political affiliation. Participants expressed the need for government to commit resources towards addressing historical factors and building trust with minority populations.