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Research in Vaccine Hesitancy

Barbara WegnerMay 11, 2021, 10:04:24 PM

Some people want everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and so they wonder why people are hesitant and they wonder what they can do to make them want to get the vaccine. You may find it interesting because it shares information on tips or tricks they will use to get people to take the vaccine. Also interesting is that it mentions people who are hesitant are not dumb, they're very well-informed. 

“I think we need to avoid the trap of thinking that information or knowledge is enough, because for a lot of the people, and when you look at hesitancy and parental vaccine hesitancy in the US, the group who is most likely to purposefully choose to not vaccinate are highly educated. In speaking with them, these are people who have read the primary literature themselves, and they’re correctly interpreting it, so it’s not a misunderstanding. They have other concerns that go beyond the traditional public health message of, ‘This is what you should be doing.’”

— Emily Brunson, MPH, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology at Texas State University

This is from the website about the guide:

"This guide was prepared by the Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications in partnership with Purpose and the United Nations Verified initiative.

Our research began with an information-gathering scan of peer-reviewed research from the US and the UK in vaccine hesitancy, through which we identified a group of scholars with expertise in identity, trust, science communication, etc. Over a period of five days from August 21-25, 2020, we held a series of conversations with these scholars around specific topics related to vaccine hesitancy. These included: What makes people resilient against misinformation? What drives vaccine hesitancy? Which frames will be most effective? What kinds of message strategies have been effective with specific communities? And finally, what are some of the best ways to make taking the vaccine a norm within particular communities? These conversations were transcribed and coded, and we identified the principals shared here.

We applied these principles to generate a survey which was conducted in four countries – France, Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom from October 4-18, 2020.

The survey had more than 1,600 total respondents, with more than 400 respondents per country, and was representative of gender, race, income, geography, and age. It offers preliminary data on testable claims made in this guide. The survey was conducted with online participants who were willing to take part. The survey was conducted by the survey firm Qualtrics which adhered to research guidelines and provided informed consent to survey takers about the survey and their rights. Across the survey 301 people (18%) reported they were vaccine hesitant, which is in line with national surveys as of October 2020. While statistically significant, this survey was used to test the reception of certain messages and can not be generalized across all populations."


Here are another few quotes,  but feel free to download the guide on the site above and read it yourself. 

"For Black Americans, for instance, barbershops turn out to be a really good place to get health information and having doctors train the barbers to talk about it turns out to be quite effective… It’s important to have the information there, but having this trusted source who the experts trained to talk about it also helps broader dissemination. And so I think thinking about whatever messaging we end up coming up with from these multiple levels will be really helpful.”


Paul Slovic, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon and founder and president of Decision Research, suggested the potential effectiveness of regret: “Wouldn’t you regret if you did not get the vaccine and you or your loved ones got ill and you had decided not to get it?” Kurt Gray, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina, said it’s important to offer this in a positive sense and focus on the benefits of the vaccine with concrete stories. People in the vaccine hesitant community often point to their regret in having their children vaccinated, attributing specific side effects to that choice. Heidi Larson pointed out how the regret angle is really important to leverage, because it’s something that parents really struggle with. 

“There is a very proactive influential anti-HPV vaccine group in Ireland called “R.E.G.R.E.T.. It’s about Gardasil. It’s Reactions and Effects of Gardasil Resulting in Extreme Trauma. Regret can be leveraged in different ways, On the one hand you can say, ‘You don’t want to regret not vaccinating if your child gets encephalitis or other serious condition from measles disease.’ But many parents are also anticipating the possible regret if they do vaccinate and there is a problem, ‘Yeah, but what happens if he gets autism from the vaccine?’ Regret is an important dimension in conversations with parents, but the important thing is to shift the anticipated regret towards how they might feel if their child is not vaccinated and becomes seriously ill or even dies from a vaccine preventable disease rather than being more focused on the potential side effects of the vaccine.”

Paul Slovic pointed out that “one of the things that makes COVID scary is that it’s difficult to control.” It’s invisible, people can carry and transmit the disease without showing symptoms, and there are limited treatment options. People have profound discomfort with uncertainty, and so offering the vaccine in the context of regaining control could be quite powerful.”