Publication Date



PLoS One



African American and Hispanic populations have been affected disproportionately by COVID-19. Reasons are multifactorial and include social and structural determinants of health. During the onset and height of the pandemic, evidence suggested decreased access to SARS CoV-2 testing. In 2020, the National Institutes of Health launched the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx)- Underserved Populations initiative to improve SARS CoV-2 testing in underserved communities. In this study, we explored attitudes, experiences, and barriers to SARS CoV-2 testing and vaccination among New York City public housing residents.


Between December 2020 and March 2021, we conducted 9 virtual focus groups among 36 low-income minority residents living in New York City public housing.


Among residents reporting a prior SARS CoV-2 test, main reasons for testing were to prepare for a medical procedure or because of a high-risk exposure. Barriers to testing included fear of discomfort from the nasal swab, fear of exposure to COVID-19 while traveling to get tested, concerns about the consequences of testing positive and the belief that testing was not necessary. Residents reported a mistrust of information sources and the health care system in general; they depended more on “word of mouth” for information. The major barrier to vaccination was lack of trust in vaccine safety. Residents endorsed more convenient testing, onsite testing at residential buildings, and home self-test kits. Residents also emphasized the need for language-concordant information sharing and for information to come from “people who look like [them] and come from the same background as [them]”.


Barriers to SARS CoV-2 testing and vaccination centered on themes of a lack of accurate information, fear, mistrust, safety, and convenience. Resident-endorsed strategies to increase testing include making testing easier to access either through home or onsite testing locations. Education and information sharing by trusted members of the community are important tools to combat misinformation and build trust.


Humans, Black or African American, COVID-19, Hispanic or Latino, New York City, Public Housing, SARS-CoV-2, Vaccination



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