University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Combatting Anti-Vaccination Misinformation: Improving Immunization Rates of Black/African American Children at UW Health

Sharon-Rose Nartey, BS; Jonathan Temte, MD, PhD, MS; Elizabeth Petty, MD

WMJ. 2021;120(Suppl 1):S31-S38.

Download full text pdf.


Introduction: Vaccine hesitancy is a rising public health threat, thwarting progress to reduce vaccine-preventable diseases. While drivers of racial disparities in childhood immunization rates (CIR) have been described, none have explored these disparities at UW Health, and few have highlighted the role of anti-vaccination (anti-vaxx) campaigns in the Black/African American (BAA) community.

Objectives: This quality improvement study evaluates childhood immunization data for racial and ethnic disparities, identifies possible drivers, and proposes equitable solutions.

Methods: UW Health CIR were analyzed for racial and ethnic disparities between December 31, 2015, and December 31, 2019. A root cause analysis was done to explore potential drivers. An in-depth media review of targeted anti-vaxx campaigns was chosen for further exploration using “anti-vaccine leaders targeting minority becomes growing concern at NYC forum” as the initial search query template. Google Trend and literature searches were performed to understand questions BAA parents have about vaccines.

Results: UW Health data show significant increasing racial and ethnic disparities in CIR. As of December 31, 2019, the immunization rates were 90.74% for White children, 88.11% for Asian children, and 68.29% for BAA children. Media review suggests anti-vaccination leaders have increasingly targeted the BAA community with vaccine misinformation and skepticism. Analysis of vaccine-related queries suggest 8 core questions BAA parents have about vaccines.

Conclusions: Health systems must assess their CIR for disparities and further dissect drivers to effect change. We focus on suggesting strategies to combat negative media campaigns, among others, to close the gap. Understanding of all factors is needed to develop effective interventions to reduce disparities in childhood immunization rates in the BAA community served by UW Health and beyond.

Author Affiliations: University of Wisconsin-School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wis (Nartey, Temte, Petty).
Corresponding Author: Sharon-Rose Nartey, 750 Highland Ave, Madison, WI 53705; email; ORCID ID 0000-0003-1952-5758.
Acknowledgement: The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, chief diversity officer for UW Health, and Jeffrey Pier, UW Health analytics.
Funding/Support: The authors acknowledge the support of a summer research award from the Herman and Gwendolyn Shapiro Foundation.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
Share WMJ