Medical mistrust, discrimination, and COVID-19 vaccine behaviors among a national sample U.S. adults

Jennifer D. Allen, Qiang Fu, Shikhar Shrestha, Kimberly H. Nguyen, Thomas J. Stopka, Adolfo Cuevas, Laura Corlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: COVID-19 vaccine uptake has been suboptimal and disparities in uptake have exacerbated health inequities. It has been postulated that mistrust in the healthcare system and experiences of discrimination or unfair treatment in other settings may be barriers to uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine, although few studies to date have investigated medical mistrust and perceived discrimination together. Method: We conducted a cross-sectional online survey between April 23-May 3, 2021, among a national sample of U.S. adults ages 18 years and older. We assessed receipt of and intention to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and associations with the validated Medical Mistrust Index and Everyday Discrimination Scale. Results: 1449 individuals responded, of whom 70.2% either had ≥1 dose of COVID-19 vaccine or reported that they were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ likely to be vaccinated in the future. In bivariate analyses, vaccination status was significantly associated with age, race/ethnicity, education, income, employment, marital status, health insurance, and political party affiliation. In multivariable analyses comparing those who had ≥1 vaccine dose or were likely to get vaccinated in the future with those who had not had any vaccine doses or did not intend to be vaccinated, each additional point in the Medical Mistrust Index was independently associated with a 16% decrease in the odds of vaccination (adjusted odds ratio = 0.84; 95% confidence interval = 0.81, 0.86). Discriminatory experiences were not associated with vaccination behavior or intention in bivariate or multivariable analyses. Conclusions: Medical mistrust is significantly associated with vaccination status and intentions. Increasing uptake of COVID-19 vaccines will likely require substantive efforts on the part of public health and healthcare officials to build trust with those who are not yet fully vaccinated. We recommend that these efforts focus on building the ‘trustworthiness’ of these entities, an approach that will require a paradigm shift away from a focus on correcting individual beliefs and knowledge, to acknowledging and addressing the root causes underlying mistrust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101278
JournalSSM - Population Health
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Attitudes and beliefs
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Discrimination
  • Medical mistrust
  • U.S
  • Vaccine hesitancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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