Mistrust of information about COVID-19 and hesitancy to accept a vaccine were common concerns expressed in a convenience sample of 101 Black Americans living with HIV in Los Angeles County, California, researchers reported in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.
Participants were interviewed by phone between May and July 2020, well before any COVID-19 vaccines had been approved and while President Donald Trump was still in office.
Ninety-seven percent of respondents endorsed at least one of an array of COVID-19 mistrust beliefs, including a lack of faith in the federal government, a lack of trust in health care providers, and concerns about the safety of both vaccines and COVID-19 treatments. Nearly two-thirds of respondents believed that a lot of information about COVID-19 was being held back by the government or that the government could not be trusted to tell the truth about COVID-19.
Mistrust of health care providers was also common, but far less so: 20% said that Black people cannot trust health care providers regarding COVID-19. A majority of respondents expressed some hesitancy in getting a coronavirus vaccine (54%) or treatment (51%).
Doubt was greater among those with less than a high school diploma compared to participants with more education. The researchers did not find any other baseline variable to be significantly correlated with mistrust of COVID-19 information, vaccines, or treatment.
“Participants were less likely to believe that health care providers would be dishonest and were more likely to trust information from providers than from other sources, especially elected officials,” study authors noted. This provides an opportunity for health care and social service providers to engage with communities and provide evidence-based information on the novel virus and vaccines against it.
To help providers bridge this gap in trust, they should be trained in motivational interviewing skills, which will allow them to address mistrust while acknowledging systemic racism as its underlying cause, study authors suggested.