An Analysis of COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in the U.S. at the County Level

by   Hieu Bui, et al.

Reluctance or refusal to get vaccinated, referred to as vaccine hesitancy (VH), has hindered the efforts of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns. It is important to understand what factors impact VH behavior. This information can help design public health interventions that could potentially increase vaccine uptake. We develop a random forest (RF) classification model that uses a wide variety of data to determine what factors affected VH at the county level during 2021. We consider static factors (such as gender, race, political affiliation, etc.) and dynamic factors (such as Google searches, social media postings, Stringency Index, etc.). Our model found political affiliation and the number of Google searches to be the most relevant factors in determining VH behavior. The RF classification model grouped counties of the U.S. into 5 clusters. VH is lowest in cluster 1 and highest in cluster 5. Most of the people who live in cluster 1 are democrat, are more internet-inquisitive (are more prone to seek information from multiple sources on the internet), have the longest life expectancy, have a college degree, have the highest income per capita, live in metropolitan areas. Most people who live in cluster 5 are republicans, are the least internet-inquisitive, have the shortest life expectancy, do not have a college degree, have the lowest income per capita, and live in non-metropolitan areas. Our model found that counties in cluster 1 were most responsive to vaccination-related policies and COVID-19 restrictions. These strategies did not have an impact on the VH of counties in cluster 5.


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