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Survey examines vaccine hesitancy among nursing students

May 2, 2024

University of Missouri students (from left) Amy Brandt, Robin Vanderbeck and Olivia Woody presented their research regarding vaccine hesitancy among nursing students at the 2024 National Council on Undergraduate Research Conference. Photo courtesy of Amy Brandt

A trio of University of Missouri students recently traveled across the country to present their research regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine hesitancy among nurses.

Health science student Amy Brandt worked with public health major Robin Vanderbeck and biochemistry student Olivia Woody to take a closer look at nursing students and potential vaccine hesitancy among members of the population. The students presented their findings at regional and national conferences, including the National Council on Undergraduate Research Conference in Long Beach, California, and the UM System Undergraduate Research Day at the Missouri State Capitol.

The group’s research is part of a larger project — the team is led by Lynelle Phillips of the Department of Public Health and Kevin Everett and Jane McElroy with the MU School of Medicine — that surveyed more than 5,000 people about health behaviors, immunizations and the COVID-19 pandemic. For this portion of the project, the team solicited feedback from 91 senior-level nursing students and then compared their responses to those of other adult Missourians.

Although the team found that 82% of surveyed nursing students knew they were at high risk of getting COVID-19, 59% were not worried about the long-term consequences of the virus. Nursing students were more likely than the general population to trust government agencies about vaccines, though more than 29% of nursing respondents were unsure about future vaccinations.

“It’s concerning because health care systems are repealing COVID vaccination mandates for workers,” Brandt said. “Nursing staff who choose not to vaccinate are putting themselves and their patients at high risk of exposure and prolonged illness.”

Because the general public tends to trust health care professionals as a source of vaccine information, Brandt said it’s imperative that nurses fully comprehend the safety and efficacy of vaccinations as well as the consequences of long COVID-19. By better understanding nursing students’ perceptions, public health leaders can shape the way they educate this population about immunization and infectious diseases — and overcome rampant misinformation and misconceptions about vaccines.

“Nursing students are humans and can certainly fall prey to the trappings of social media just like everyone else,” Phillips said. “We know more about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines than any other drug out there. We have to have confidence in their safety since we are giving them to otherwise healthy individuals, babies, and children to prevent disease.”

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Lynelle Phillips

Lynelle Phillips

Assistant Teaching Professor