The project was designed prior to the pandemic, however the impact of the pandemic has prompted us to shift our original focus and subsequently our team composition. Our focus was on access to health information in the Latinx community initially in New Brunswick, then in Camden. The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on our community partnership, which is not surprising given that the pandemic has affected communities of color disproportionately. Team members and collaborators are physically healthy, but the lasting economic effects have been dramatic and that has impacted the collaboration. Early in the pandemic, Charles Senteio, as the PI, observed emerging national data on racial inequities for COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and mortality coupled with the conversations he was having with his own personal network of people of color, he observed quite a variance of perceptions and beliefs about perceptions (e.g., causes, treatments, and perceptions of future vaccines) within Black and Latinx communities. Given his familiarity with Acculturation scales, and his observations concerning COVID-19 perceptions and beliefs, in the early summer he decided to assemble a team of multi-disciplinary researchers to examine intra-group perceptions concerning COVID-19 vaccines, the information sources (e.g., messengers) that inform these perceptions and beliefs, and how these may influence health behaviors, specifically intent to receive a future vaccine using an online survey.

On May 28, 2020, the newly formed team received IRB approval. Shortly after they created a project website at, and launched an initial survey to measure intra-group perceptions for Black and Latinx communities using validated Acculturation Scales for each. Given this focus, and how the pandemic was impacting the collaboration, Senteio also explored merging this effort with the existing CDHW project. In August 2020, the project received approval to be merged and shifted to focus on COVID-19 perceptions and information sources.

The team began work with a common understanding of historical medical malfeasance coupled with the propagation of dis-/misinformation throughout the pandemic, which has threatened the credibility of institutions at the Federal, State, and local levels. Just as race and ethnicity are associated with COVID-19 risk of infection, hospitalization, and death, we are investigating how cultural factors may be associated with COVID-19 perceptions, intentions to receive a future vaccine, and how access to information may influence those perceptions. We are still engaged with our community partner and the Research Assistant we hired in February from the original CDHW project, but we have also added team members based on skills and experiences and evolving research collaborations.


Researchers and Partners

This project remains a partnership between the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information and Lazos America Unida based in New Brunswick, NJ. But we have added members from the Rutgers School of Nursing, the MIT Sloan School of Management, Emory University, and the CDC. The expansion has resulted in a diverse team of health researchers who have already provided novel insights on how racial/ethnic acculturation may influence COVID-19 vaccination intent and what messengers may be most effective in providing health information. Our motivation stems from our awareness that vaccines will not keep us safe, but vaccinations can.

Team members


  • Charles Senteio, Ph.D., MBA, MSW, Assistant Professor at the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University New Brunswick in the Department of Library and Information Science
  • Teresa Vivar, Founding Executive Director of Lazos America Unidad, based in New Brunswick
  • Nicole Coria, senior at Rutegrs University pursuing a B.A. in Information Technology and Informatics, with a double minor in Public Health and Health Administration

Members below have been added since the start of the CDHW project.

  • Melinda Jenkins, Ph.D., FNP, Associate Professor, Clinical Scholar track, and Informatics Program Specialty Director, in the Division of Advanced Nursing Practice at the Rutgers School of Nursing.
  • Tracy R. Vitale, Ph.D, DNP, RNC-OB, C-EFM, NE-BC, Assistant Professor, Rutgers School of Nursing
  • Katelyn (Katie) Roman, MPH, the New Jersey State Cancer Registry (NJCSR)


  • Antoine R. Trammell, MD, MPH, School of Medicine, Emory University
  • Adaora Ntukogu, senior at Emory University pursuing a B.A. in Human Health with a Pre-Medicine concentration

MIT Sloan School of Management

  • David Rand, PhD, Erwin H. Schell Professor and Associate Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT Sloan School of Management.

University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

  • Gordon Pennycook, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at University of Regina’s Hill/Levene Schools of Business in Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Christie Newton, BSc, MSc candidate, researcher in the Behavioral Science Lab at University of Regina


  • Darius McDaniel, MSPH, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention


About this Project

The significance of this project is that racial minority populations experience dramatic and persistent inequity in health outcomes and levels of medical mistrust. We posit that understanding perceptions and intentions within racial and ethnic minority groups across a diverse sample is imperative to translate the unprecedented vaccine development advances to vaccination levels necessary to keep us safe (i.e., the social sciences are needed to translate the tremendous advances from bench sciences). We are using online surveys to understand potential barriers and to design interventions to address them, which is among our long-term objectives. We are also interested in how perceptions (e.g., mistrust, discrimination) may influence health behaviors (e.g., vaccination, cancer screening, and medication behavior).


Results and Findings

Our preliminary analysis showed very little difference between perceptions of Latinx and White respondents concerning COVID-19. This was the case in the Spanish Language version and the English version (using the Mexican American Acculturation Scale) so we dropped Latinx from the subsequent experiments.

We have found strong correlations for Black respondents for factors in the African American Acculturation Scale (AAAS-R) and COVID-19 perceptions:

1. Strong correlation where less acculturated participants have more negative vaccine attitudes

a. this relationship is fully mediated by suspicion of the healthcare system (and partially mediated by support subscale of the healthcare trust scale)

2. Exploratory analysis finds that less acculturated participants are more likely to have had self/family/friends hospitalized due to COVID – showing differential exposure to harm from COVID 


Next Steps

We have revised the online survey to explore the connection between cultural beliefs/practices and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among Black Americans. During spring 2021 we will solicit respondents and use our observations to develop messaging interventions that will help address misinformation or disinformation that may be informing the COVID-19 vaccine perceptions and beliefs among Black Americans.

We will also explore the degree to which structural factors are influencing access to vaccination. This is particularly important in light of the dramatic racial inequities associated with COVID-19, which will only amplify persistent inequity if Black Americans do not have equal access to vaccination.


Long term we see our work informing future investigations to address COVID-19 vaccination inequities and target messaging accordingly (e.g., rural conservative voters, rural older adults, etc.)


PI (Senteio) has also submitted a grant to the MIT Sloan School of Management for internal funding from their Health Systems Initiative (HSI) group. The team is seeking funding to support a Research Assistant to support the analysis of the survey data and to cover costs for 3rd party (Lucid) to support recruitment.

Learn more about the project