Sendero Health Study Highlights Significant Gap Among Austin-Area Residents Planning to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

Some 47 percent of Blacks or African Americans; 19 percent of Females; and 15 percent of Mexican, Mexican American, and Chicanos are less likely to get COVID-19 Vaccine.Nearly 89 percent of survey respondents agree wearing a mask can protect them from COVID-19

Austin, TX, March 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- As more COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to Central Texas, nearly two-thirds of Sendero Health Plans members responding to a survey said they plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to them.

In the first study of its kind in Central Texas to measure support for getting the COVID-19 vaccine, Sendero members were asked to respond to the statement “I plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available.” Some 64.1 percent of respondents said “yes,” compared to 35.9 percent who said “no,” were “unsure,” or preferred not to answer.  

In addition, the overwhelming majority of those who responded to the survey, 88.9 percent, answered “yes” to the question “I believe that wearing a mask can protect me against COVID-19.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has lifted the statewide mask mandate, effective March 10.

A total of 1,648 Sendero Health Plans members in Central Texas responded to the survey, which was conducted between November 11 and December 22, 2020.  Sendero provides health insurance to residents of eight Central Texas counties. The majority of respondents were from Travis, Williamson and Hays Counties.

“Knowing basic demographic information about who is likely to obtain the vaccine is key to having a successful vaccination strategy and in reaching vaccine-induced herd immunity in our community,” said Dr. John R. Litaker, PhD, the principal researcher for this study. “For instance, we know from these results that women and individuals who identified as Black or African American are less likely indicate that they plan to obtain the vaccine. Knowing this information can help with community outreach, education and building awareness.”  

For example, females are 19 percent less likely than males to say they plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Likewise, Blacks are 47 percent less likely than non-Blacks to say they plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals identifying as Mexican, Mexican American, or Chicano are 15 percent less likely to say they plan to get the vaccine than those who do not report an ethnicity. Similarly, those with a high school diploma or below are 21 percent less likely to say they plan to get the vaccine than those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.  Finally, those with a household income of less than $30,000 per year are 11 percent less likely to say they plan to get the vaccine than those with household incomes of greater than or equal to $30,000 per year.

Sendero CEO Wesley Durkalski said: “This scientific study provides key insights into Central Texans’ intent to be vaccinated, and Sendero is working with local decision-makers to leverage this data in improving our local response. Our goal is to understand vaccine hesitancy concerns so we can work with our members and the community to help them make informed decisions about their health, and to assist local public health officials in developing effective engagement and delivery strategies for this vaccination campaign across the entire Austin community.”

The Texas Department of State Health Services announced Wednesday that people 50 and older eligible to be vaccinated beginning March 15. Three vaccines are currently approved for emergency use: the two-dose vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna and the one-dose vaccine by Johnson & Johnson/Janssen.

Sendero has already conducted follow-up surveys and collected data to better explore the reasons why people chose to get or not get the COVID-19 vaccine.  That data will be released in April 2021.

The results were presented in a webinar briefing Wednesday titled “Equity Gaps in COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake: A Community Conversation” and included comments from panelists Cynthia Valadez, of LULAC and the Central Health Board of Managers; Stephanie Hayden-Howard, Director, Austin Public Health; and Dr. Mary Carol Jennings, Chief Medical Officer, Sendero Health Plans.  

This study is part of ongoing population health research at Sendero Health Plans that seeks to improve the health and well-being of members and the community. Previous research has looked at vaccine doses for COVID-19 to reach heard-immunity, strategies to increase mammography screening, strategies to identify and treat members with hepatitis C, and improving eye care for members with diabetes.

The full set of findings from this study will be published in a peer-reviewed public health journal to be published later this year.

About the lead authors:

John Litaker, PhD, MSc., MMedSc is a public health expert and research scientist with degrees in pharmacoeconomics, public health, and medical science from the University of Texas at Austin, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the University of Hong Kong, respectively.  He has spent 20 years working as a scientist and public health expert in public health emergency preparedness and the last five years applying his skills as a scientist and researcher in the health insurance industry.

Richard Taylor, PhD, MPH is an infectious disease epidemiologist who previously worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an epidemic intelligence service officer and career epidemiology field officer.  He worked at the Texas Department of State Health Services as the manager of strategic preparedness and is currently a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin where he teaches epidemiology and other public health courses.

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Sendero Health Plans Inc., formed in 2011, is a community-supported nonprofit Health Maintenance Organization affiliated with the Travis County Health District, known as Central Health. Sendero is dedicated to improving the health of the community by providing affordable, quality healthcare coverage, especially for low-income Travis County residents. Sendero offers its IdealCare plans on the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace and is available in Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, Burnet, Fayette, Lee and Caldwell counties.



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