Vaccination is one of the most economical and effective intervention measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and achieve herd immunity. As we work to implement national vaccine campaigns, it is important to understand the factors that influence vaccine uptake and hesitancy and the steps needed to ensure success, especially among high-risk populations.
Given that elderly individuals are at higher risk for COVID-19 infection and negative outcomes, the 20th cohort of the China Field Epidemiology Training Program (CFETP) felt it particularly important to better understand factors influencing vaccination among this group. As part of a four-week workshop administered by CFETP professors Zeng Guang and Zhang Lijie, six CFETP fellows conducted a rapid survey with people over age 60 in three districts in Beijing to capture their knowledge of COVID-19 vaccines and willingness to get vaccinated.
CFETP fellows worked hard to survey as many people as possible, staying overnight in the target communities and administering door-to-door surveys. The fellows designed questionnaires to collect demographic information, respondent knowledge of COVID-19, channels used to obtain COVID-19 information, and willingness to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In total, they surveyed 233 individuals.
Results from the survey showed that factors affecting vaccination behavior among people over age 60 included gender, age, presence of underlying conditions, consultation with a doctor, awareness of the nearest vaccination site, and attitudes of elderly friends toward the vaccine. Limited access to, and misunderstanding of, vaccine-related information were also factors that contributed to concerns about receiving the vaccine. The survey also showed that individuals with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were less likely to get vaccinated, and that vaccination rates were higher among males than females. Support from other elderly friends and individuals in the community had a positive impact on respondent’s willingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to CFETP, this workshop helped push fellows outside of their comfort zones to understand the challenges of working at the community level. Opportunities like these help broaden FETP trainees' skills, preparing them to be the next generation of public health leaders.