Study: Stress personal rather than social gains to swing anti-vaxxers

Study: Stress personal rather than social gains to swing anti-vaxxers
Credit: Benoit Doppagne/Belga

People who express opposition to being vaccinated against Covid-19 are more likely to respond to messages aimed at them personally than those that stress the social gains, according to research carried out by the University of Oxford.

The study looks at a group of 18,885 people and their responses to a variety of vaccine messages.

The results show that the best way to encourage vaccine-hesitant individuals – those who have said they will want or those who have a firm intention never to be vaccinated – is to address the personal, individual benefits of the vaccine, rather than taking the moral high ground by stressing the benefits to society as a whole.

In effect, those who are not vaccinated, even if young and fit, still run the risk of infection by the virus, which even though it may not be fatal, could still result in long-term health problems.

The group that received that message was also provided with information to deal with concerns that vaccines had been developed too quickly to be properly effective. The study did not engage with issues such as microchips in the vaccine to control the population.

There may be two things going on here,” said a spokesperson from the team in a press release.

First, if you don’t trust the safety of the vaccines, you’ll be worried about what getting the jab will do to you. The decision-making process gets dominated by personal risk concerns. The best way to counter those concerns, therefore, is to highlight the opposite: personal benefits.”

In addition, messages that stress we’re all in this together may not resound with sections of the population who feel excluded.

Second, we know that people who are vaccine-hesitant are more likely to feel marginalised. People who feel that society does not care about them may be less likely to be receptive to messaging that relies for its effectiveness on a sense of belonging.”

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group at Oxford said, “This trial identifies the importance of emphasis on the personal benefit of vaccination when discussing the merits of COVID19 vaccines to improve uptake, but we need also to remember the importance of being vaccinated to protect our families and colleagues from getting the virus from us, the impact on them and the health systems when we become ill with the coronavirus, and the delay at the end of the pandemic, with grave consequences on economies and society, that will be caused by vaccine refusal.”

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