STEM Shoutout: Drs. Gabriel Sanchez and Shannon Sanchez-Youngman

Partnership seeks support for communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19


Gabriel Sanchez and Shannon Sanchez-Youngman at The University of New Mexico are helping lead a national effort to understand effective COVID-19 vaccine messaging and hesitancy factors.


The massive American COVID-19 Vaccine Poll is a partnership between the African American Research Collaborative (AARC), The Commonwealth Fund, The National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), and other national organizations. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported an expansion of the poll in the Native American community and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation supported expansion in New Mexico through the UNM Center for Social Policy (CSP).


The poll surveyed about 13,000 people nationwide and included representation across genders and racial and ethnic communities. Using data from the U.S. Census to curate sample sizes representative of minority and underrepresented populations, researchers gathered answers from African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Whites, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and rural Americans. The sample included more than 2,000 surveys from New Mexicans representing views of Latino/Hispanics, Native Americans, immigrants and African Americans.


“This survey has the largest sample sizes of diverse communities in the United States and more depth in content than any other data that has been collected to date on vaccination hesitancy and messaging,” said Sanchez, lead UNM researcher on the project and executive director of the CSP. “The sheer size of the number of people we polled gave us more comprehensive understanding of Americans’ hesitancy towards getting the vaccine, and how we can overcome those concerns to encourage more people to get vaccinated.”


At this time, the Mayo Clinic reports about 45 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – about half of the percentage needed in order for the U.S. to reach herd immunity. More than six months after the first vaccine dose was administered in the United States, the American COVID-19 Vaccine Poll reveals which sub-groups have yet to pursue a shot (or second shot), why they haven’t taken that step, and what messaging methods work best to encourage them to do so. It took an in-depth look at these questions among many others:


  • What are the primary drivers of vaccine hesitancy, particularly in rural regions and within communities of color? Are there differences based on race, nativity, language use and partisanship?
  • What will it take to get non-vaccinated Americans to take a COVID-19 vaccine?
  • How do parents feel about vaccinating their children against COVID-19?
  • Should COVID-19 vaccines be mandatory for teachers and students in K-12 schools?
  • Will Americans take booster vaccines or a combination Flu/COVID-19 vaccine annually?


“With about 60 percent of our state (ages 16+) now fully vaccinated, we’re looking at how to connect with those groups who have yet to make an appointment. Our goal is to be a research hub for vaccine outreach in New Mexico,” explained Sanchez-Youngman, assistant professor at the UNM College of Population Health. “Our team conducted research on the obstacles and solutions to vaccinating the communities in our state less confident in the vaccine; and we’re partnering with the NM Department of Health to overcome those challenges and hesitancies.”


Read the full story here.


By Rachel Whitt / UCAM