Solid organ transplant recipients are at increased risk of morbidity and mortality from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but limited vaccine access and vaccine hesitancy can complicate efforts for expanded vaccination. We report patient perspectives and outcomes from a vaccine outreach initiative for a vulnerable population of transplant recipients living in New York City.
This was a retrospective review of qualitative perspectives from a COVID-19 vaccine outreach initiative. In the outreach effort, kidney and pancreas transplant recipients under care at the transplant center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital were initially contacted electronically with educational material about vaccination followed by telephone outreach to eligible unvaccinated patients. Calls were used to schedule vaccine appointments for patients who agreed, answer questions, and assess attitudes and concerns for patients not yet ready to be vaccinated, with conversational themes recorded.
Of the 1,078 patients living in the 5 New York City boroughs who had not reported receiving COVID-19 vaccination, 320 eligible patients were contacted by telephone. Of these, 210 patients were scheduled for vaccination at our vaccine site (including 13 who agreed to vaccination after initially declining), while 110 patients were either not ready or not interested in being vaccinated. The total number of patients willing to be vaccinated was 554 when also including those already vaccinated. Unwillingness to be vaccinated was associated with younger age (median age of 47 vs 60 years, P < 0.001), Black race (P = 0.004), and residence in Bronx or Brooklyn counties (P = 0.018) or a zip code with a medium level of poverty (P = 0.044). The most common issues raised by patients who were ambivalent or not interested in vaccination were regarding unknown safety of the vaccines in general, a belief that there was a lack of data about the vaccines in transplant recipients, and a lack of trust in the scientific process underlying vaccine development, with 34% of the patients contacted expressing vaccine hesitancy overall.
Our qualitative summary identifies determinants of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in a diverse transplant patient population, supporting the need for transplant centers to implement tailored interventions to increase vaccine acceptance in this vulnerable population.

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