COVID-19 and influenza vaccine hesitancy among college students

Jessica Silva
Jeffrey Bratberg, University of Rhode Island
Virginia Lemay, University of Rhode Island


Background: Successful vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an essential component of achieving community immunity to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end. Vaccine hesitancy, identified as a top threat to global health by the World Health Organization, is a significant barrier to vaccine uptake. With COVID-19 vaccination programs in effect since December 2020, it is critical that vaccination barriers are proactively identified. With limited information surrounding college students’ perspectives on COVID-19 vaccines, outreach measures will play a pivotal role in vaccine uptake in this population. Development of informative, cohort-driven vaccination campaigns requires proactive assessment of factors influencing vaccine hesitancy, access, and uptake. Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to investigate the spectrum of vaccine hesitancy among college students at the University of Rhode Island (URI). The secondary objective was to identify differences in COVID-19 and influenza vaccine hesitancy rates in this population. Methods: A 22-item, Institutional Review Board–approved, anonymous questionnaire was developed to survey URI students who voluntarily attended 2 joint University Health Services and College of Pharmacy influenza vaccination clinics in November 2020. Results: A total of 237 vaccination clinic participants consented and responded to at least 1 question on the survey. Once available to their respective priority group, 92% are very/somewhat likely to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and 50% will receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Only 3% of the participants stated that they would never receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The top 3 reported COVID-19 vaccine–related concerns were safety (37%), effectiveness (24%), and limited information (16%). When asked if COVID-19 vaccines and influenza vaccines should be mandated, 85% and 83%, respectively, were in favor. Conclusion: Understanding the spectrum of vaccine hesitancy is critical in achieving COVID-19 community immunity thresholds. URI students are willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 provided that the vaccines are proven safe and efficacious.