Survey analyzes distribution and acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine across groups of gender, age, education, race and region

People with health insurance are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at a higher rate than those without insurance, despite the vaccine being free, according to a new national survey from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

The research finds about 55 percent of adults with health insurance have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine compared to 30 percent of those with no health insurance.

This may mean that many without health insurance mistakenly believe that they have to pay for the vaccine, say researchers who suggest that more robust public health messaging about the free vaccine is needed.

“Those who are white, highly educated and have higher incomes are getting the COVID-19 vaccine at disproportionately higher rates compared with people of color, those with lower educational attainment, and those with lower incomes,” said Soumitra Bhuyan, an assistant professor of health administration and the study’s lead author.

The results of lower vaccination rates confirmed that health disparities, such as lack of pharmacies, trusted providers and reliable transportation, which existed before the pandemic for non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic/Latino Americans compared to non-Hispanic white Americans are the same.

Hispanic respondents reported the highest difficulty in scheduling their COVID-19 vaccine. Fifty-three percent of Hispanic/Latino respondents cited difficulty in scheduling than non-Hispanic Blacks (31.2 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (36.8 percent).

Of those vaccinated, 80 percent thought that vaccination sites were well-run and safe. However, there is a lag in vaccination rates despite respondents feeling safe.

“About half of survey respondents reported receiving at least one dose of vaccine, tracking closely with Center for Disease Control and Prevention data for the same period,” said Joel Cantor, study co-author, professor at the Bloustein School and director of the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy. “However, CDC data show the vaccination trend is slowing. Our study shows the groups in which vaccination is lagging most, highlighting where public health outreach needs to be intensified.”

The data also finds a lower percentage of the LGBTQ community (42 percent homosexual; 41 percent bisexual, pansexual or queer) received at least one dose of the vaccine as compared to 52 percent of heterosexuals.

Researchers polled 1,500 people throughout the country between April 7-12, asking whether they had already received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Those who did were then asked about ease of vaccine access.

Rutgers co-authors include Assistant Professor Soumitra Bhuyan; Alexis Rittweger, a research assistant; Associate Professor Julia Sass Rubin; and Professor Joel Cantor.