Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Public Health

Advisor/Committee Chair

John Justino

Committee Member

Ashley M. Fox

Committee Member

Beth J. Feingold


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the significant health disparities that the African American population faces in comparison to White Americans. The Tuskegee Syphilis study is often cited to support the theory that medical mistrust is responsible for these disparities despite conflicting opinions that medical distrust is not the main reason for disparities. This study examines the effects that historical health disparities in Black populations have on contemporary vaccine hesitancy. An analysis of recent sources, including peer reviewed historical analysis and news articles with accredited sources was used to make up the entirety of the literary review. For data on contemporary vaccine disparities, articles were retrieved through PubMed, with key words being “African-American” “Health disparities” and “Vaccine Disparities.” Articles were chosen within the past five years to assess current vaccine disparities, and articles with data from roughly 10 years and 20 years prior were used to establish trends in vaccine hesitancy across racial and ethnic groups. Linear regression analysis of survey data was present in all articles in which data was collected. This study found a long history of medical racism; distrust in healthcare systems, providers, and the government; and a lack of outreach to inform Black communities were the main causes of vaccine disparities. Examples such as the Tuskegee Syphilis study are often used to oversimplify the causes of hesitancy in Black communities, and as a result the main reasons for vaccine hesitancy is not addressed on an individual or policy level. Instead of oversimplifying the cause of medical disparities and distrust to singular historical events, public health researchers must focus on a broader set of reasons for vaccine hesitancy through communication with Black communities in order to create effective strategies to eliminate health disparities in vaccination. Additionally, addressing broader systematic disparities within the medical field towards Black communities will be far more effective at combating vaccine hesitancy in the long term.

Available for download on Thursday, December 01, 2022

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Public Health Commons