Share Your Story: COVID’s Impact



1. How has COVID impacted the lives of adult African Americans in St. Louis, Missouri?
2. What factors affect COVID vaccine hesitancy and beliefs?

Having direct experience with COVID, such as loved ones getting sick or dying from it, makes people worry they could get COVID,which increases interest in vaccination. Yet African Americans, who are more likely than other groups to know someone who died from COVID and are more worried about getting COVID, have greater vaccine hesitancy. Attitudes based on direct experience persist longer, are more resistant to change, and more predictive of behavior than attitudes based on other influences. However, African Americans’ experiences could be at odds with one another: seeing loved ones sick and dying or losing a job due to COVID would seem to increase interest in vaccination, while experiences of healthcare mistakes, bias and discrimination – concerns that are common among African Americans hesitant to be vaccinated – could suppress vaccination interest. Gaining insight into the relative influence of different experiences shaping vaccine beliefs and intentions can help guide strategies to address hesitancy and resistance.

In phone interviews, we will first assess the impact of COVID on their lives socially (e.g., isolation, cohesion, violence), economically (e.g., income, housing stability, employment, food security) and educationally (e.g., school closures, online learning), and the ensuing mental health consequences (e.g., stress, worry, depression, anxiety). We will then ask participants how, if at all, those experiences affect how they think or feel about COVID-19 vaccination. The linkages or mental models that emerge will be used to frame messages that address vaccine hesitance by building on lived experiences.

African American households have experienced more negative financial, educational and mental health impacts of COVID-19 than other groups. We are conducting in-depth interviews to guide communication and engagement strategies to overcome vaccine hesitancy and resistance among African American adults in St. Louis. We will gain deeper understanding of how the life impact of COVID influences vaccine hesitancy and beliefs.

The study partners with various St. Louis County and City community-based and government agencies such as the St. Louis COVID-19 Regional Response Team which has a network of over 80 social service agencies. Many of our community partners conduct public service events. Members of our research team attend these public events to enroll interested African American residents of the St. Louis area in the study, which entails a one-on-one interview to gain an understanding of how COVID has impacted their them and those close to them, their community, and vaccine beliefs and decisions.


Niko Verdecias & Maura Kepper