The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for mass vaccination. Britain’s medicines regulator, the MHRA, says the jab, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 illness, is safe to be rolled out. The first doses are already on their way to the UK, with 800,000 due in the coming days.
Because hospitals already have the facilities to store the vaccine at -70C, as required, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place there – for care home staff, NHS staff and patients – so none of the vaccine is wasted. click full article
However, despite the Covid vaccines being reported as safe, a recent YouGov survey found that 21% of adults are unlikely to take a vaccine, and a further 12% are unsure. That means a third of the country aren’t confident they will take the vaccine – though reasons vary from a minority of anti-vaxxers, to a larger group of people who are hesitant and want to wait and see if it’s safe, or think they are too low risk to need it.
This resistance could potentially increase as “confirmation bias” ie the tendency to search out and engage with content that re-enforces what we already believe – and polarising social media algorithms cause people to become even more entrenched in their views. It is therefore vital to plan ahead of the rollout in order to ensure as many people as possible take the vaccine.
Looking at the vaccine rollout programme, it is hard to see that there would be significant numbers of anti-vaxxers amongst the top 6 or 7 priority groups to receive the vaccine. However, the younger relatives of people who fall into these age groups may be anti- vaxxers whose views are re-enforces via social media, so it will be important to educate and use behavioural techniques to persuade everyone of the value of the vaccination programme to benefit all.
If we are talking to someone who’s uncertain about the vaccine we should try to be empathetic, actively listen, and focus on the benefits of taking it. And rather than contradicting them, we should suggest places where they can find out additional information. If people feel respected and trusted they are more likely to listen; and if they can find out on their own, then they will have time to process and engage with it without feeling defensive.
It’s a human instinct that, if our strongest beliefs are directly challenged, we can end up believing them more firmly – what’s known as the backfire effect. We often have a defence mechanism that leads us to actively search out information that shows we are right. In this case if people are pushed too hard and feel judged, they’ll look for reasons to avoid taking the vaccine.
This knowledge of the backfire effect should impact all of us, not just those directly connected to the rollout. We shouldn’t post on social media about how “idiotic” people who don’t take the vaccine are. It won’t help. Nor should there be public broadcasts from government ministers disparaging anti-vaccine views. And it means ensuring doctors have a non-judgmental approach when they talk to patients who aren’t sure about taking them. click full article
Newspapers should have headlines about high take-up rates, and the positive benefits this will have for society. It is this type of positive story we should be actively sharing and discussing, rather than looking for people to judge negatively.Covid vaccine tracker: when will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?Read more
This will work most effectively when people see those they feel a connection with following the rules. This means, where possible, that messaging aimed at young people following guidelines should be targeted towards young people, and the same applies to aiming messages at people in a certain social group or geographical region. We instinctively want to copy those we feel closest to, and are less likely to disregard the behaviour of those we feel are in our in-group.