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As news circulates about a new modified COVID-19 vaccine booster being made available to adults this fall, there are still populations where vaccine uptake is low and need to be addressed. A new Moffitt Cancer Center study published in JAMA Ophthalmology found COVID-19 vaccination is lower among adults with vision and hearing disabilities compared to those without impairment.

headshot of Dr. Kea Turner

Dr. Kea Turner, Health Outcomes & Behavior Department

“There have been long-standing disparities in preventive health care access among adults with vision and hearing disabilities compared with adults without disabilities. As a result, we were not surprised by the study findings, which are consistent with prior studies demonstrating gaps in vaccination, such as the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, among adults with disabilities,” said the study’s lead investigator Dr. Kea Turner, a researcher in Moffitt’s Health Outcomes & Behavior Department.

Turner and a team of researchers performed an analysis of 916,085 adults who participated in the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey between April 2021 and March 2022. They found that adults with serious vision impairment and blindness had lower vaccination rates compared to those with no vision impairments. Those with serious hearing impairment and deafness were also less likely to initiate the COVID-19 vaccination series compared to adults with no hearing impairment.

“There are several factors that contribute to this disparity, such as lack of access to a usual source of care or primary care provider, financial hardship and health care systems not being equipped to serve this patient population,” said Turner.

She recommended three strategies to improve vaccination accessibility among adults with hearing and vision disabilities:

  1. Make it easier to access information about COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination sites, such as providing materials with large text and visual cues and ensuring vaccine registration websites are compatible with screen readers.
  2. Make vaccination sites more accessible, such as providing vaccinations in partnership with service agencies that have experience working with this population.
  3. Improve vaccination access among the formal and informal caregivers that may assist adults with hearing and vision disabilities.

The researchers say that although this study is a good start to help develop initiatives to promote equitable and accessible vaccination, follow-up studies are needed to monitor COVID-19 vaccination rates among adults with vision and hearing disabilities.