The Role of Risk Perception in Flu Vaccine Behavior among African‐American and White Adults in the United States

Risk Analysis
February 2017 Volume 37, Issue 2 Pages 193–397

Early View First published: 17 March 2017
The Role of Risk Perception in Flu Vaccine Behavior among African‐American and White Adults in the United States
VS Freimuth, A Jamison, G Hancock, D Musa, K Hilyard… –
Seasonal flu vaccination rates are low for U.S. adults, with significant disparities between African and white Americans. Risk perception is a significant predictor of vaccine behavior but the research on this construct has been flawed. This study addressed critical research questions to understand the differences between African and white Americans in the role of risk perception in flu vaccine behavior: (1) What is the dimensionality of risk perception and does it differ between the two races?  (2) Were risk perceptions of white and African-American populations different and how were sociodemographic characteristics related to risk for each group? (3) What is the relation between risk perception and flu vaccine behaviors for African Americans and whites? The sample, drawn from GfK’s Knowledge Panel, consisted of 838 whites and 819 African Americans. The survey instrument was developed from qualitative research. Measures of risk perception included cognitive and emotional measures of disease risk and risk of side effects from the vaccine. The online survey was conducted in March 2015. Results showed the importance of risk perception in the vaccine decision-making process for both racial groups. As expected, those who got the vaccine reported higher disease risk than those who did not. Separate cognitive and emotional factors did not materialize in this study but strong evidence was found to support the importance of considering disease risk as well as risk of the vaccine. There were significant racial differences in the way risk perception predicted behavior.