Vaccine refusal among rural family caregivers is more than double urban, suburban

March 10, 2021

According to a new survey conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of SCAN Health plan, nearly one in three (31%) family caregivers who live in rural communities say they won’t take the older adult under their care to get the COVID-19 vaccine—that’s nearly double the refusal rate of urban and suburban caregivers (16%). Likewise, about the same number (36%) of rural caregivers say they won’t get vaccinated themselves.

The survey showed that safety concerns largely drive caregivers’ unwillingness to get the vaccine for their loved ones and themselves. Among the rural family caregivers surveyed, an overwhelming 81% have doubts that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and more than a quarter (28%) are not at all confident in the vaccine’s safety. Just 9% of their urban and suburban peers are not at all confident. Taken together, experts say the findings show how difficult it will be to save lives in communities where access to healthcare is already limited.

“The mistrust, doubt and uncertainty among rural family caregivers could upend efforts to get vulnerable seniors in these communities vaccinated,” said Dr. Romilla Batra, a practicing internist who serves as SCAN’s chief medical officer. “Regardless of location—urban, suburban or rural—getting vaccinated is the key to achieving herd immunity and minimizing COVID-19 fatalities.”

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. People rely on family caregivers for transportation, nutritional needs and assistance accessing medical care.

SCAN Health Plan, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans, 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. The survey found that 20% of family caregivers polled say their insurance provider is one of their most trusted resources for COVID-19 vaccine information.

“These sobering results should be viewed as a call to action,” said Eve Gelb, senior vice president of healthcare services for SCAN Health Plan. “Older adults and their caregivers in rural areas already face significant hurdles when it comes to getting the healthcare they need. If we’re going to reduce the virus’s death toll, then we have to work to convince people who live in these areas that the vaccines are both safe and effective.”

Gelb noted that respondents across the board said they have high levels of trust in their physicians and public health officials. SCAN, which has members across California, many of whom live in rural communities, is partnering with doctors and public health officials on an ambitious campaign to educate people about the importance of getting the vaccine.

Scan Health Plan has the release

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