SEATTLE — About 75% of indigenous people report that they are likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine, despite reporting a lack of trust within the healthcare system.
The new study, from Urban Indian Health Institute, looked at the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of the COVID-19 vaccine in 316 American Indian and Alaska indigenous communities.
Two-thirds of participants who were willing to get vaccinated said they were confident the COVID-19 vaccine has been adequately tested for safety and effectiveness among indigenous people.
While 75% said they would get the vaccine, and felt that doing so was a responsibility to their communities, most respondents said they needed more evidence of the vaccine’s long-term safety.
The rates in indigenous communities outranked the national average – with just 64% of the US general population affirming they would get the vaccine.
Another 39% reported difficulty travelling to clinics to get the vaccine, proving that timely access to healthcare remains a struggle across Indian Country.
Just 25% said they were not willing to get a vaccine — 90% of whom reported concerns of negative side effects.
“This data will be important to all organizations conducting COVID-19 vaccine education efforts,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, director of UIHI. “Native communities have unique challenges and needs that usually are not considered in public health campaigns.”
“Willingness to receive a vaccine and hesitancy are not mutually exclusive,” said Echo-Hawk. “Fear and distrust of government and medical systems still exist in our community, which are hurdles that we have to overcome.”
Echo-Hawk hopes the report can start to create a better understanding of the unique perspectives of Native people.
“The data indicates that most Native people willing to be vaccinated feel it is their responsibility for the health of their community,” Echo-Hawk said. “This shows what motivates our community when it comes to decision-making.”
Across the United States, indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 incidence and mortality rates are 3.5 and 1.8 times that of non-Hispanic Whites, respectively.