Marginalized groups are exposed to higher burdens of chronic conditions and have historically experienced more health disparities compared to their White counterparts because of structural racism, Those vulnerabilities put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19; however, marginalized groups are less likely to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, nurse scientist Ijeoma Julie Eche-Ugwu, PhD, MPH, FNP-BC, AOCNP®, CPHON®, BMTCN®, and nurse educator Nadia Alcindor, RN, MSN, reported in the February 2024 issue of the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing.

“As of May 2023, about 51% of non-Hispanic Black individuals had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine compared to about 67% of Hispanic/Latino individuals and about 57% of non-Hispanic White individuals,” Eche-Ugwu and Alcindor said. “However, disparities remain for updated COVID-19 booster doses among adults with a completed primary vaccination series; 37.5% and 36.3% of non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Asian individuals, respectively, have updated vaccination series compared to 29.3% of non-Hispanic Black individuals, 28.5% of American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, 25.6% of Hispanic/Latino individuals, and 18.6% of Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander individuals.”

Community trust and engagement are essential to improve COVID-19 vaccination uptake among marginalized groups affected by cancer, Eche-Ugwu and Alcindor said. They recommended that oncology nurses consider the following tangible actions:

  • Build trust and community engagement through open dialogue with community partners and leaders.
  • After establishing those partnerships, collaborating with faith-based leaders to cultivate trust and address safety concerns related to COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Use social media to amplify the voices of nurses who represent the communities they serve.
  • Use community-level data to determine which community members are at higher risk for COVID-19 virus infection and vaccination hesitancy.
  • Develop and validate an objective evaluation process and provide continuous feedback on what is working, what has not worked, what needs changing, and perception of COVID-19 risks.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruptions and death among marginalized communities,” Eche-Ugwu and Alcindor advocated in their conclusion. “Nurses’ role in bolstering trust and authentic engagement with health care among these communities, particularly for individuals who are affected by cancer, may help to reduce COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy.”