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A Look Into Party Affiliation & Vaccine Hesitancy 

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Blog by Ajay K Gupta, CEO, HSR.health, Jay R Etherton, Epidemiologist / Data Scientist, HSR.health, Michael Temchine, Geospatial Analyst, HSR.health, Madeline Lynch, HSR.health

The narrative surrounding vaccine hesitancy in America and other high-income countries is complicated and full of nuance. The “5C Model of the Drivers of Vaccine Hesitancy” outlines the five main determinants for hesitancy levels: complacency, constraints, risk calculation, confidence, and collective responsibility. The incredible breadth of access to the internet is a driving factor in vaccine hesitancy, as incomplete or inaccurate information – disinformation – can be disseminated to individuals quickly and easily. However, reluctance in marginalized communities can also be tied to distrust in the government and medical institutions due to historical wrongdoing such as the Tuskegee experiment and forced sterilizations.  The need for clear, consistent information and timely data collection and interpretation for communities across the US regarding COVID-19 also contributed to the pervasive and persistent lack of confidence and trust in government and healthcare officials. 

The United States’ political polarization and the politicization of the overall pandemic response contributes significantly to hesitancy levels as shown in our findings. An individual’s stance on vaccinations is heavily influenced on what one hears and sees around them, and the level of hesitancy within their communities.

As the chart suggests, counties that are typically considered majority Republican (960 counties) tend to see higher rates of vaccine hesitancy while counties that are majority Democrat (365) tend to have lower vaccine hesitancy. This is especially interesting when considering the recent US elections, such as the Republican upset in the Virginia governor’s race and the surprisingly close results of the respective New Jersey election. This begs the question, should election results / political leanings be taken into account when developing outreach and educational efforts towards addressing vaccine hesitancy? 

HSR.health has developed a Health Equity Analytics Dashboard to understand the underlying factors influencing vaccine hesitancy and includes data on vaccinations from across the US, results from the Household Pulse Survey, as well as broad sets of social determinants of health including demographic information, education levels, transportation networks, as well as voting histories among other social datasets. This information can inform local public health organizations and community efforts to develop interventions and outreach programs to address the specific factors causing hesitancy and encourage communities to seek vaccination

For additional information on our data on Vaccine Hesitancy, as well as our efforts supporting COVID-19 response, please contact us at Impact@HSR.health.