Lack of a high school education is a predictor of whether a person will be resistant to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, a new study shows.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina looked at vaccination rates in 3,142 counties in the U.S. They compared them to population characteristics based on the CDC Social Vulnerability Index.
They found that more than half of the unvaccinated adults in the U.S. with strong vaccine hesitancy had a high school education or less. Vaccine hesitancy was defined as refusal to be vaccinated even if the COVID-19 vaccine was available.
The other main predictor for vaccine hesitancy was concern about vaccine availability and distribution, the researchers said.
“Our study suggests that low education levels are a major contributor to vaccine hesitancy and ultimately vaccination levels,” the authors wrote. The study was published in the American Journal of Infection Control. “Specifically, low vaccination levels were found in communities with a less educated population and with more concern about vaccine uptake capacity, suggesting that education is an ongoing challenge.”
“Our findings suggest that policy makers and community leaders should tailor vaccine information and efforts to those with limited education and specifically address knowledge concerns that are prevalent and likely more modifiable.”
The study was based on data gathered months ago. It says that as of May 9, 2021, 34.7% of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated and that 8% reported a strong unwillingness to get vaccinated.
At press time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’sshowed that 62.5% of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated.
According to the study, other consistent characteristics of people who are vaccine hesitant are that they belong to a racial minority, are 65 or older, live in a household with children 18 or younger, or are unemployed.
When asked why they were vaccine hesitant, people gave these reasons: Lack of trust in COVID-19 vaccines (55%), concerns about side effects (48%), and lack of trust in government (46%).
Lack of access to vaccines, often cited in previous studies about resistance to other vaccines, was not cited as a reason for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is a public health threat,” the researchers concluded. “Since education levels are not easily modifiable, our results suggest that policymakers would be best served by closing knowledge gaps to overcome negative perceptions of the vaccine through tailored interventions.”
A version of this article first appeared on.