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Study reveals cost and perceived difficulty keep men from getting mpox vaccine

Unlike previous studies, perceived risk of contracting mpox and perceptions of disease severity were not associated with vaccine uptake
man visits with doctor in a clinic exam room

Several factors are known to influence vaccination rates. Among these are perceptions about the severity of and likelihood of contracting a disease, views on the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and real and perceived barriers such as cost and availability.

In the United States, mpox was diagnosed most often in cisgender men who have sex with men (MSM), though the disease is not exclusive to this population. During the recent outbreak, between 23 and 28 percent of MSM in the United States got vaccinated for mpox, and more than 30,000 cases of mpox were diagnosed. Researchers have investigated how these factors, as well as sexual risk-taking, are associated with mpox acceptance and intention among American MSM. However, little research has investigated how these factors affect MSM actually getting the mpox vaccine.

A new study published in the journal Health Behavior Research strives to fill this gap by investigating vaccinated and unvaccinated MSM using a health belief model approach. In the study, Christopher Owens, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, and Randolph Hubach, PhD, from Purdue University, used data from an August 2022 survey of more than 500 MSM in the United States.

“In contrast with previous research, we found that perceived risk of contracting mpox and perceptions of disease severity were not associated with vaccine uptake,” Owens said.  “On the other hand, we did find that beliefs about costs and difficulty in getting the mpox vaccine were significant barriers to uptake.”

Owens noted that these two significant beliefs might highlight vaccine inaccessibility due to high demand, supply issues, and restrictions on eligibility also likely played a large role in decreased uptake.

The researchers also found that respondents who reported higher sexual risk behaviors were more likely to have been vaccinated, which conforms with prior research on vaccine acceptance and intention.

“While public outreach campaigns about the risks of disease and benefits of vaccination are crucial, they should also address perceived and real barriers to uptake, such as informing people about where they can obtain the vaccine and what options they may have to reduce costs,” Owens said. “Our findings are helpful for designing health campaigns that will be vital for future infectious disease outbreaks that could be transmitted through close contact.”

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