Vax hesitancy can be cut by emphasising personal health benefits

Vaccine hesitancy has been a potential stumbling block in the effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Image courtesy: IANS

New York: Messages emphasising the personal health benefits of COVID-19 vaccines have the best chance of increasing vaccination levels, according to research.

The economists at University of Wyoming in the US compared three messages that described the benefits of taking the vaccine: benefits to personal health; benefits to the health of family, friends and community members; and benefits to local and national economies -- as well as a fourth message that emphasised the rigor and safety protocols of the vaccine development process.

The message about private health benefits increased intended vaccinations by 16 percentage points, significantly more than the other messages, revealed the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our findings suggest that several forms of public messages can increase vaccination intentions, but messaging that emphasises personal health benefits had the largest impact," said lead author Madison Ashworth, doctoral student at the varsity.

Vaccine hesitancy has been a potential stumbling block in the effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent surveys suggest that 60-70 per cent of US adults intend to be vaccinated for COVID-19, which falls short of the threshold identified by public health experts to achieve herd immunity.

To examine the impact on vaccine intentions of a variety of public health messages, the researchers surveyed a representative sample of 3,048 adults in the US.

People with low trust in government agencies are 14 percentage points less likely to want a vaccine, compared to those with medium trust. Of those who don't want to be vaccinated, 90 per cent worry about the vaccine's side-effects and novelty, and 75 per cent lack trust in vaccine developers and the Food and Drug Administration to truthfully disclose a vaccine's risks and effectiveness.

While their findings show that messages about the private benefits of COVID-19 vaccination are most effective, the economists suggest more research to explore the effectiveness of different information channels for promoting vaccines.

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