COVID-19

What it will take to persuade people to get a COVID-19 vaccine

Kristin Schwab Dec 7, 2020
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Having famous people get vaccinated on camera is one tactic. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have already volunteered. Alex Wong/Getty Images
COVID-19

What it will take to persuade people to get a COVID-19 vaccine

Kristin Schwab Dec 7, 2020
Heard on:
Having famous people get vaccinated on camera is one tactic. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have already volunteered. Alex Wong/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

A recent Pew Research poll shows 60% of Americans would definitely or probably get a COVID-19 vaccine if one were available today. That’s an improvement in vaccine confidence over previous surveys, but 21% still said they do not intend to get vaccinated and are “pretty certain” more information won’t change their minds.

Even a small uptick in acceptance would be a big deal. An increase of just 5% is considered a success, said Noel Brewer, who researches vaccination behavior at the University of North Carolina. But it won’t come easy.

“There’s no single intervention that’s going to get us to high vaccination rates,” he said. “We’re gonna have to do a little of everything. We’re gonna have to try 20 things all at once.”

Having famous people get vaccinated on camera is one tactic. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have already volunteered. And surely celebrities will be getting their shots on social media. Star power has been persuasive before. In 1956, Elvis Presley got vaccinated for polio live on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Not long after, he made a public service announcement to try to convince children to get the shot.

What doesn’t influence decisions, said Brewer, is doomsday warnings about the virus or scientific explanations about the vaccine. And pleading with people to do it for grandma and grandpa isn’t likely to change many minds. otherwise it would have worked for masks.

“Interventions that focus on what people think and say may or may not be effective. But it’s the ones that focus on what they do that are hugely effective,” Brewer said.

It’s all about convenience: Make it easy to get the vaccine. Make it free. Offer appointments all day long. Administer vaccines at convenient and visible places like pharmacies and grocery stores or maybe even at work.

“It shows that, oh this is available at lots of places, lots of people are doing it, this is a routine part of life,” said Gretchen Chapman, a psychology professor who researches decision-making and health behaviors at Carnegie Mellon University.

Eventually we may reach a point where enough people are vaccinated that it just seems like the right thing to do. “So we’re very social creatures and we want to follow what others like us are doing and identify with the groups that are important to us,” Chapman said.

There’s another factor that could play into people’s willingness to get the COVID vaccine, one that hasn’t been a consideration with measles or the flu: the economy.

“I mean, there’s an argument that basically suppressing the disease is going to be economically beneficial because we’ll get society back to normal,” said Keith Holyoak, a psychology professor at UCLA who’s studied strategies to influence vaccine skeptics.

The economic crisis is a health crisis. And to get people working and spending again, we need to solve the health part first.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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