Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

NMSU students lead research on hesitant COVID-19 vaccination

LAS CRUCES – Countries around the world started giving COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020 – but by the summer of 2021, hesitant vaccination had become a global problem.

However, a team of three public health graduates from New Mexico State University anticipated misinformation, myths, and hesitation about COVID-19 vaccines a few months earlier. Led by NMSU Public Health Science Professor Jagdish Khubchandani, the trio set out on a mission to understand vaccine reluctance on a global scale.

Their research efforts resulted in four published studies examining vaccine reluctance.

“Within a short period of time, her studies have been cited and circulated in the scientific media more than 100 times,” said Khubchandani. “Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the quality of graduate education at NMSU and the diligence of our students have enabled us to continue contributing to the scientific world and the greater public health cause. We are continuing our research on these topics in order to better prepare for the future and solve real problems. “

Nirbachita Biswas, a Bangladeshi doctor seeking a master’s degree in public health, led the research effort that led to the team’s first published study, which focused on vaccination reluctance among health workers. In her review of 76,741 health professionals worldwide, Biswas found that 22.5 percent did not want to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and raised concerns about safety, side effects, and effectiveness. Biswas published her results in April in the Journal of Community Health.

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“Healthcare professionals can play a vital role in promoting and advocating for COVID-19 vaccination. If they resist these vaccines, unfortunately, it is not clear how they can serve as advocates for their patients, ”said Biswas. “With more data now available on the benefits and safety of vaccines, urgent action is needed to address health care professionals’ concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines.”

Clockwise from top left: Nirbachita Biswas, Yilda Macias, Jagdish Khubchandani and Toheeb Mustapha.  Biswas, Macias, and Mustapha - all current or alumni of New Mexico State University - worked with Khubchandani to research vaccination reluctance on a global scale.  Their research efforts resulted in four published studies examining vaccine reluctance.

Yilda Macias, a first-generation college student who started her public health degree at NMSU last fall, is co-author of a study on COVID-19 vaccine reluctance among racial and ethnic minorities.

For the study, Macias reviewed a sample of 107,841 American adults and found an overall vaccination rate of 26.3 percent for the entire group. But she found much higher rates of hesitation among African Americans (41.6 percent) and Hispanic adults (30.2 percent). The journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity-Health published Macias’ results in May.

“While the virus has affected the entire nation, incidents and deaths among racial and ethnic minorities have been disproportionately higher,” she said. “Our review provides recommendations and strategies for increasing the vaccination of these groups to reduce their disproportionate exposure to COVID-19 deaths.”

Toheeb Mustapha, who came to NMSU from Nigeria and recently earned a master’s degree in public health, led the third and most recent study on COVID-19 vaccination reluctance among healthcare students and trainees.

Mustapha’s study found a vaccination delay rate of 18.9 percent in a sample of 19,991 health care professionals from 39 countries. Participants in this study shared similar concerns raised by practicing health workers. Mustapha published his findings in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity-Health in June.

“During the pandemic, many health care trainees and students were on the forefront, putting them at risk of COVID-19 infections,” he said. “As new varieties emerge, health professionals cannot afford to be unvaccinated. Not only do they protect themselves, they are also role models for the public on health issues. “

Mustapha said his time at NMSU helped him advance his Ph.D. Program he recently embarked on at the University of Louisville.

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“The training at NMSU prepared me for my doctoral trip, both in class and in research,” he said. “The research I have done with the faculty at NMSU has also helped me understand my duties as a public health practitioner and increase my esteem.”

In the latest study, Khubchandani and the team of NMSU students analyzed vaccine denials among 31,948 non-medical college students around the world and found that 22 percent refused to get the vaccine.

“We have observed that students in health professions may have slightly lower rejection rates for the COVID-19 vaccination. However, it appears that regardless of college major or major, nearly a fifth of college students around the world prefer not to get vaccinated anytime soon, ”said Khubchandani.

In the study, researchers point out that as colleges and universities around the world add to the social, economic, and cultural climates of their communities, efforts must be made to improve vaccination among college populations.

“In all of our studies, we provide guidance and recommendations on how to achieve high vaccination rates in different population groups,” said the researchers.

The latest study will be featured in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity in October 2021.

Eye on Research is provided by New Mexico State University. This week’s feature was written by Carlos Andres López from Marketing and Communications. He can be reached at 575-646-1955 or [email protected]

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