Quick Takes

Researchers to spend five years, $3.7 million looking into Eastern Kentucky COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy 

By: - January 18, 2023 10:55 am

Kathryn M. Cardarelli and Marc T. Kiviniemi are co-principal investigators and researchers in the Health, Behavior & Society department at the UK College of Public Health. They will lead the study of vaccine hesitancy in Eastern Kentucky. (Photo for UK by Arden Barnes)

University of Kentucky researchers announced Wednesday they will spend the next five years and $3.7 million to better understand COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Eastern Kentucky. 

Researches from the colleges of Medicine, Public Health, Communication and Information and from the Department of Public Health will work on the project, named Kentuckians Vaccinating Appalachian Communities (K-VAC). The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health. 

“We are studying ways of simultaneously addressing the willingness to be vaccinated and vaccine accessibility, and then seeing if addressing those problems increases the portion of the populate that has received a vaccine, what we call ‘vaccine uptake,'” Health and Behavioral Sciences researcher Dr. Kathryn M. Cardarelli said in a statement. 

An advisory board that includes members of the Kentucky River Health Consortium will guide the research as well, UK said, “To ensure that the project’s approach is responsive to the communities’ cultural, social, historical and economic contexts.” 

“Vaccination is a critical strategy for reducing the COVID-19 overall burden and health disparities, yet vaccine intentions and uptake are unacceptably low in our partner communities in Appalachian Kentucky,” Cardarelli added. 

As of Jan. 17, about 67% of Kentucky’s total population had received at least one COVID-19 shot, with 58% fully vaccinated and 38% having received their booster. Counties with more people – Fayette and Jefferson – rank high for vaccinations. Spencer, Elliot, Edmonson, Hart and Knox are at the bottom with fewer vaccinations. The majority of vaccine recipients in the state received Pfizer

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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, COVID-19 and more.