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Comment: How to answer questions about the Covid vaccine

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Cass R. Sunstein / Bloomberg Opinion

The world will soon face a serious new challenge to the fight against Covid-19, the hesitation of vaccines.

In the United States and the United Kingdom, many people (at least 30%) have said in a recent study that they hesitate to vaccinate or refuse a vaccine that protects them from the coronavirus and delays its transmission. These numbers probably underestimate the problem. People may tell researchers that they will be vaccinated without being vaccinated. The problem can also be exacerbated if the vaccine becomes available under the usually accelerated “emergency use” exception of the long approval process, aggravating public concerns about rushing it. ..

What can i do? To answer that question, you need to understand why some people dislike vaccination. The study investigates the effects of three factors, well known as the three Cs.

It’s convenient at first. Humans suffer from inertia and procrastinate. Many people do not vaccinate if vaccination is not so easy.

Physical proximity to the vaccination site helps. Because the waiting time is short. The long line hurts. So are the paperwork requirements and administrative obstacles. If a widespread exemption is the goal, authorities, large and small, should not underestimate the importance of eliminating inconvenience. The good news is that if vaccines are readily available, vaccination rates will increase significantly, even among suspicious people.

The second factor is complacency. When it comes to illness, many people tend to think that their risk is low. Vaccination seems unnecessary because it is called “optimistic bias”.

The third factor is reliability. Public confidence in the efficacy and safety of vaccines, as well as the motivation and capabilities of the people behind them. Many people generally do not trust vaccines. Many other people do not trust certain vaccines, or new ones they may feel they have been poorly tested. In the extreme, distrust turns people into anti-Vax activists.

In the context of Covid-19, mistrust is likely to be a particular problem, and many think “I’m not going to be a human guinea pig” or at least wait for a while until vaccinated. .. During that waiting time, many people may get sick.

For those seeking to promote vaccination, the first step is to identify the specific cause of hesitation and to know which is most important and which is accurate.

For the poor, the lack of convenience can be significant. Among young people, the main problem may be complacency. For those who are distrustful of authority and science and think that experts do not know what they are doing, the problem is lack of confidence.

Convenience may prove to be the easiest problem to solve. Once a safe and effective vaccine is available, making it readily available to everyone should be a top priority (start with those at specific risk). Financial incentives such as small gift certificates are useful.

Self-satisfaction can be a special issue for those who believe that a low risk of death for an individual may or may not be rational. Providing clear warnings, including true explanations of the deaths and serious illnesses of young, healthy and tough people, would be a good response.

Vaccination also helps to emphasize that it protects not only those who have been vaccinated, but also those who may be infected in other ways. Even if young people think their risk is low, they may choose to be vaccinated if they are confident that doing so can protect someone’s mother or grandmother.

Trust is the most difficult nut to crack. False information has increased public distrust, and there is definitely much of it when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccine. Also, when it comes to vaccination, some people show “reactance.” This means that they have a negative attitude towards formal requirements or requirements. Rebel against them.

The good news is that, above all, emphasizing the facts and paying less attention to falsehoods can fool false information (even in the process of false reporting, mentioning them backfires). It may come out).

For those who distrust the authorities, an effective response is to meet where they are and appeal directly to their sense of social identity and culture. Such a response, sometimes referred to as “community-based,” informs people that their peers and people with their own values ​​are vaccinated.

Reliable or surprising “validators” -respected and admired celebrities by those who lack confidence in vaccines-will be of great help. Suppose people in the community are known that the vaccine does not work, or that it is part of some plan, or that it is afraid to have terrible side effects. Reliable politicians, athletes, or actors-thought to be “one of us” rather than “one of us”-may explicitly support vaccination (and). , Report that they themselves got the vaccine).

It is clear that a scientific question has a scientific answer. It is not so clear that there are scientific answers to questions about human behavior. Our intuition is often terribly wrong when it comes to how to promote vaccination.

However, there is a lot of evidence there, and the country can use it to protect people from Covid-19. The challenge and opportunity is that everyone is in an unknown waters. That is, we need to be flexible and ready to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Cass R. Sunstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is the author of “Cost-Effective Revolution” and co-author of “Nudge: Improving Decision Making on Health, Wealth and Happiness”.


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