The following report highlights findings from a survey fielded by Healthfirst, a not-for-profit health insurer providing high-quality, affordable health plans in New York, of its members. By partnering with this organization to implement our previously tested CUNY SPH New York Vaccine Literacy Campaign (NY VLC) survey tool, we examine COVID-19 vaccine attitudes and uptake in under sampled and often vulnerable populations of New York. The survey was conducted from June 24 to June 26, 2022, with 556 Healthfirst members across eight New York counties: Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), Nassau, New York (Manhattan), Queens, Richmond (Staten Island), Suffolk, and Westchester.
It should be noted that the sample sizes of this survey are generally small, therefore, we emphasize that these results are preliminary and exploratory in nature; they highlight potential disparities that should be confirmed in future research and outreach efforts. For the first time, we explore perceived COVID-19 risk, booster uptake, and COVID-19 preparedness. We also assess trends in willingness to vaccinate among unvaccinated respondents and parents of children under five. For some data points, we compare the findings from the Healthfirst sample to those found in a general population survey fielded simultaneously (include link to report here)
Perceived COVID-19 Risk
Healthfirst respondents had a higher level of concern regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic than the general public respondents do, 63% and 53% respectively. Concern was elevated among those who have less than a high school degree (75%), and those who chose to take the survey in Mandarin (75%).
In the Healthfirst sample, respondents from the Bronx had a high level of concern about the ongoing pandemic: 7 out of 10 (70%) respondents consider the COVID-19 pandemic to be a serious public health problem, while the general population average in the Bronx was just one in three (36%)
Willingness to Vaccinate
Compared to March 2022, the willingness of unvaccinated Healthfirst respondents to get vaccinated has declined. In March, two out of three (67%) respondents were willing to consider future vaccination, reporting they were very likely, somewhat likely, or neutral/unsure about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. In June, this declined to roughly three in ten (28%) unvaccinated Healthfirst respondents who were willing to consider future vaccination.
In comparison to the general sample, there was a higher percentage of unvaccinated Healthfirst respondents who were not at all likely to get vaccinated in the future, 45% (general population) and 63% (Healthfirst members) respectively.
Main Reasons for Not Yet Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine
The reasons that Healthfirst members were not vaccinated differ from the general population. Concern over the safety of vaccines was still the predominant reason for hesitancy (58%). One-fifth (20%) of unvaccinated respondents were hesitant because they don’t have the time to get vaccinated or deal with possible side effects. Nearly one out of five (18%) unvaccinated Healthfirst respondents stated that they could not get vaccinated due to a health condition.
In the general sample, eight in ten (80%) unvaccinated respondents chose to not get vaccinated due to safety concerns.
Just over one-third (36%) of Healthfirst respondents have received at least one booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to over four in ten (43%) respondents from our general sample.
Around one in four (26%) respondents who took the survey in Spanish had received a booster shot. Based on race and ethnicity, Hispanic respondents also had the lowest rate of uptake (28%), while other races and ethnicities were on par or above average in their uptake relative to the overall average of 36%. Over half (55%) of Caucasian/White Healthfirst respondents were boosted, followed by 37% of Asian respondents and 37% of Black or African American respondents.
Booster uptake is also low among those unemployed and looking for work: just over two out of ten respondents (22%) had received a booster shot.
Parental Attitudes towards COVID-19 Vaccination of Children Under 5 yrs old
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 years of age on June 18 2022. We administered this survey just a week after the vaccine authorization and chose to still assess the willingness of parents to vaccinate their children under 5 as opposed to doses already received. An equal portion of Healthfirst parents were on opposite ends of the decision: 29% were very likely and 29% were not at all likely to vaccinate their child under 5. The remaining Healthfirst parents were somewhat likely (23%), neutral/unsure (13%) and not very likely (5%) to vaccinate their child under 5 against COVID-19.
Preparedness if Exposed to COVID-19
Compared to the general population, Healthfirst respondents were less confident in knowing what to do following exposure to COVID-19. Thirty-seven percent (37%) of Healthfirst respondents were “extremely confident” in their next steps, relative to forty-three percent (43%) of the general sample.
Over four in ten (42%) Healthfirst respondents who took the survey in English were “extremely confident,” followed by one in three (34%) Spanish speaking Healthfirst respondents. Finally, just over one in four (27%) respondents who took the survey in Mandarin were “extremely confident” in knowing what to do following exposure.