Black US military service members were 28% less likely to get an initial Covid-19 vaccine dose compared to White service members, according to a military study.
The study used Department of Defense data to analyze vaccination acceptance trends among active service members between December 2020 and March 2021. It compared vaccination acceptance trends by ethnicity, education level, geographic location and military service branch.
Military Times first reported on the study and its results.
While non-Hispanic Blacks were 28% less likely to get an initial Covid-19 vaccine dose, Asian/Pacific Islanders were “the only race/ethnicity group” to have a higher acceptance rate of vaccinations, what the study calls “initiation rate,” than non-Hispanic White service members, Dr. Michael Lang of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues found.
The study only used data for active service members given the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, because the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was not approved until mid-February and “only small quantities” of the vaccine had been used during the timeframe when the study was conducted, the survey results, released in the April issue of the US military publication Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, said.
There has not been much publicly available information about trends within US military service branches regarding Covid-19 vaccine uptake since vaccines began being administered after the Pfizer vaccine was approved in December 2020.
In February, the Pentagon said about one-third of service members were declining to be vaccinated, which mirrored general US population trends at the time. Nearly 40% of US Marines were saying no as of April 10, according to data provided to CNN.
While the Department of Defense has made vaccines available to service members since December, beyond he number of overall doses administered, further data has not been provided to the public by the department.
The study is also the first to investigate what factors are involved in accepting or rejecting the vaccine, the researchers said
Trends between genders, education levels, geographic locations
Women were 10% less likely to get an initial dose of a Covid-19 vaccine than men, according to the study results. People who were older, more educated and of higher rank were more likely to get vaccinated, the study found.
Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps service members were all more likely to get an initial dose of the Covid-19 vaccine than Army service members, the survey showed.
“Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps members were 45%, 15% and 52% more likely, respectively, to initiate compared to Army members in the adjusted model,” the researchers wrote.
Service members based in southern and midwestern locations were the least likely to get vaccinated, the researchers found. Among different occupations within the services, pilots and health care professionals had the highest initiation rates, the research team said.
Overall, the results showed that non-Hispanic Black service members, as well as women who were younger and of a lower rank in their service branch with lower education levels and those serving in the Army were less likely to get a first vaccine dose in this time period.
“The U.S. military must continue to assess and address factors associated with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, including disparities, to ensure maximum force health protection against the virus,” Lang’s team recommended.