Altruism Can Spur Us to Get VaccinatedA STUDY CONDUCTED BY VINCENZO GALASSO AND COLLEAGUES FINDS THAT CAMPAIGNS CENTERED ON PROTECTING OTHERS ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE
Emphasizing the benefits for the wider community instead of pure self-interest is more effective in making people get vaccinated against COVID. This is the conclusion of a multi-country research project by Vincenzo Galasso, Vincent Pons, Paola Profeta, Martin McKee, David Stuckler, Michael Becher, Sylvain Brouard, and Martial Foucault as reported in a paper (Addressing vaccine hesitancy: experimental evidence from nine high-income countries during the COVID-19 pandemic) that appeared in BMJ Global Health.
The response to information campaigns intended to boost vaccination rates is a topic under observation in the wake of the COVID pandemic. The need to have as many people vaccinated as possible has made what scientists have dubbed “vaccine hesitancy”, ie unwillingness to get jabbed, a research subject in itself, not least because future pandemics remain possible, and policymakers need to know how to prevent the worst consequences.
Vincenzo Galasso and his colleagues have set up a study which is unique for its breadth, as it covers nine OECD countries, as well as its timespan, having been conducted in multiple waves over 18 months from March 2020 (at the very beginning of widespread lockdowns) until July 2021 on a total of over 6300 respondents. The aim was to investigate whether information campaigns could really influence behavior and make more people take part in the vaccination effort, and if so what kind of messaging was more effective.
Two different tones of voice were tested in order to study this latter issue. One explicitly leveraged self-protection, the other more altruistic motivations. While self-protection messages proved ineffective, exposure to altruistic messages corresponded to a higher probability of recipients reporting six months later that they had gotten vaccinated. This effect was higher in countries which at that time were experiencing higher COVID mortality rates.
“There has been persistent doubt regarding the effectiveness of information campaigns in actually altering people's behavior,” Vincenzo Galasso remarked. “These findings add to this ongoing discussion and can guide future research. The key focus here lies in comprehending the circumstances under which a message resonates with a portion of the population to the extent that it triggers a shift in their choices, which is then successfully acted upon. These circumstances are undeniably intricate, and consequently, any further research will require an interdisciplinary approach.”
Vincenzo Galasso, Vincent Pons, Paola Profeta, Martin McKee, David Stuckler, Michael Becher, Sylvain Brouard, Martial Foucault, “Addressing vaccine hesitancy: experimental evidence from nine high-income countries during the COVID-19 pandemic”, BMJ Global Health, First published September 22, 2023, DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjgh-2023-012658
by Andrea Costa