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People who knew someone ill with or who died from COVID-19 are more likely to get COVID-19 vaccine

Since March 2020, COVID-19 has infected more than 100 million United States citizens, resulting in more than one million deaths. Although vaccines are available for COVID-19, not all individuals choose to receive them.  A Penn State College of Medicine researcher coauthored a study with Rutgers University investigators that found people who knew someone who became ill with or died from COVID-19 were more likely to get vaccinated against the disease.

“The knowledge and experiences of a person whom a listener trusts or can connect with sometimes work more effectively than public health messaging or mandates in encouraging someone to get vaccinated for COVID-19,” said Deepak Kalra, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurology. “Our research findings could shape the way public health organizations convey key health messages for all kinds of diseases, not just COVID-19.”

The researchers examined the relationship between knowing that a friend or family member became ill with, or died from, COVID-19 and receiving a vaccine dose within four months of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization. They surveyed 1,517 respondents from April 7 to April 12, 2021 – 1,193 of whom were eligible to receive a vaccine when they were surveyed. The researchers found that respondents who knew someone who became ill with COVID-19 or knew someone who died from COVID-19 were more likely to receive at least a single COVID-19 vaccine dose.

The research was published in the journal Vaccine on March 4.

Saurabh Kalra, Irina Grafova, Julia Sass Rubin, Alan Monheit, Joel Cantor, Paul Duberstein and Soumitra Bhuyan of Rutgers University also contributed to this research. The researchers declare no conflicts of interests.

This research was supported by a Healthy Communities Seed Grant from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

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