nTIDE Deeper Dive: Work Setting and COVID-19 Vaccination Trends 7/21/2023

This month's Deeper Dive of the issues will look at Work Setting and COVID-19 Vaccination Trends with guest speaker and data analyst Nate Thomas from the UNH Institute on Disability.

nTIDE July 2023 Deeper Dive: Data Uncovers Disparities in COVID-19 Vaccination Rates Among Workers with and without Disabilities in Essential Work Settings

Study encourages the development of informed strategies to promote vaccine acceptance

July 25, 2023 — In a recent study conducted by the University of New Hampshire (UNH) concerning COVID-19 vaccination patterns among “essential” workers, some notable trends have emerged. During the peak of the pandemic, workers with disabilities were less likely to be vaccinated if working in the U.S. Postal Service, food and beverage stores, and correctional facilities. That’s according to experts speaking during last Friday’s nTIDE Deeper Dive Lunch & Learn Webinar.

This month, the nTIDE Deeper Dive discussed data from the ongoing Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey (HPS), developed to measure household experiences during the coronavirus pandemic and other emergent social and economic issues. The UNH study systematically examined the HPS’ COVID-19 vaccination status patterns, analyzing a 12-month data sample collected late in the U.S. vaccination campaign (August 2021 to August 2022) among U.S. workers (ages 18 – 64) across a range of work settings, employment sub-groups, and demographics at the national and state levels. Some of the various essential work settings included healthcare, education, first responders, correctional facilities, public transit, food and non-food manufacturing, food and beverage stores, and others.

“The study's results aim to provide valuable insights into addressing vaccine hesitancy among essential workers, particularly those with disabilities, and encourage further research to develop informed strategies for promoting vaccine acceptance,” explained Nathan Thomas, data analyst, UNH Institute on Disability (IOD), who was co-author of the study. 

The data revealed that U.S. postal service workers with disabilities were less likely to be vaccinated compared to their counterparts without disabilities. As a specific example, within the U.S. postal service, workers with disabilities had a vaccination rate of approximately 50%, while their non-disabled counterparts had a vaccination rate of about 77%.

Additionally, the study examined vaccination rates among employees working from home and found that they generally had higher vaccination rates than in other essential work settings. Moreover, the research delved into specific demographic categories, such as age groups and disability status, to gain insights into the factors contributing to vaccine hesitancy.

Respondents' hesitancy towards vaccination was also explored, shedding light on the reasons behind their decisions. “It's worth noting that respondents who expressed hesitancy towards government and COVID-19 vaccines tended to share similar views across both concerns,” asserted Andrew Houtenville, PhD, professor of economics at UNH and research director of the IOD.

“The findings indicate significant disparities within different work settings, urging the need for effective strategies in the future,” said Thomas. “Identifying the barriers to vaccination and promoting best practices in workplaces are essential steps to improve vaccination rates.” For more detailed information and insights, interested parties can access the full interactive dashboard displaying results here.

Live Webinar on Disability and Employment

In conjunction with each nTIDE report, experts host a 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM (ET) Lunch & Learn Webinar via Zoom featuring in-depth analyses, guest speakers, and news updates from the field. Webinars include invited panelists who discuss current disability-related findings and events. On August 4, 2023, guest panelists Clare Papay, senior research associate, and Rebecca Lazo, knowledge translation manager, Think College, Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston join Drs. O’Neill and Houtenville, and Denise Rozell, policy strategist from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). Register for this upcoming nTIDE online seminar at ResearchonDisability.org/nTIDE, where you will also find the nTIDE archives.

About nTIDE Updates

National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) is a joint project of Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability. The nTIDE team closely monitors the job numbers, issuing semi-monthly reports that track the impact of economic shifts on employment for people with and without disabilities. As the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wane and inflation persistently rises, the nTIDE team has superseded its mid-month COVID Update to a “Deeper Dive” into the BLS data for people with disabilities.

NOTE: The statistics in the nTIDE are based on Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers but are not identical. They are customized by UNH to combine the statistics for men and women of working age (16 to 64). nTIDE is funded, in part, by grants from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) (9ORT5022 and 90RT5017) and Kessler Foundation.

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes -- including employment -- for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.

About the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire
The Institute on Disability (IOD) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) was established in 1987 to provide a coherent university-based focus for the improvement of knowledge, policies, and practices related to the lives of persons with disabilities and their families. For information on the NIDILRR-funded Employment Policy and Measurement Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, visit www.ResearchonDisability.org.

For more information, or to interview an expert, contact: