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Military Culture and Cultural Competence in Public Health: U.S. Veterans and SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Uptake

Gin J, Kranke DA, Weiss EL, Dobalian A. Military Culture and Cultural Competence in Public Health: U.S. Veterans and SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Uptake. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 2022 Nov 18; doi: 10.1177/00221678221135283.

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As part of the U.S. effort to encourage vaccination for SARS-CoV-2, scholars have emphasized the importance of culture and identity in vaccine uptake decisions. The culture and identity of military service are poorly understood in the context of understanding Veterans' acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines. In analyzing data from semi-structured interviews with Veterans in homeless transitional housing, this article examines their willingness to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Themes invoking military culture included (a) mandatory vaccinations in the military; (b) cynicism and mistrust toward the government; and (c) trust of and reliance on Veteran peers with shared military culture in decision-making. To further understand how military culture influences vaccine uptake and explore avenues for building culturally competent, trust-based health care interventions with Veterans, a previously published case study of Veterans volunteering in Team Rubicon (TR) disaster relief is examined. Veteran participants in TR described the experience of being in a Veteran-centric organization as an empathetic context wherein they were able to: (a) address their reintegration struggles; (b) gain a new appreciation of their Veteran status; and (c) connect with trusted peers. Given TR's credibility, Veteran-serving health care organizations could collaborate with Veteran-led organizations to expand shared efforts to address Veterans' distrust of government-promoted vaccines.

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