A Pro-Active Approach for Managing COVID-19: The Importance of Undertanding the Motivational Roots of Vaccination Hesitancy for SARS-CoV2

Authored By: Steven Taylor, Caeleigh A. Landry, Michelle M. Paluszek, Rosalind Groenewoud, Geoffrey S. Rachor, and Gordon J. G. Asmundson

Vaccination hesitancy is when someone is hesitant or unwilling to get vaccinated against disease, and is a major threat to global health. We see problems with vaccination hesitancy every year for the seasonal flu, and it was also a problem during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Vaccination hesitancy is a looming public health issue during the COVID-19 pandemic, as approximately 70% of the population would need to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to contain its spread.

The goals of this study were to estimate how many people among the general population are hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine, to determine what motivates COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy, and to identify factors associated with vaccination hesitancy. Participants in the study were 3,674 American and Canadian adults who completed an online survey in May 2020. The results indicated that approximately 25% of Americans and 20% of Canadians would refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 once a vaccine becomes available. Participants who were hesitant to get vaccinated for COVID-19 had less trust in the reported benefits of the vaccine and worried more about potential unknown consequences of the vaccine. Participants who were hesitant to get vaccinated for COVID-19 also had more concerns about drug companies benefiting from the vaccine, and preferred natural approaches to becoming immune to illnesses. Rigorous scientific testing and evidence of vaccine safety were among the most important factors that individuals identified would increase their willingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The results of this study showed that vaccination hesitancy is likely to be a critical public health issue once a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available, and will threaten efforts in reaching herd immunity. In order to increase individuals’ willingness to get vaccinated, public health campaigns should provide reassurance that vaccine development followed standard testing protocols and was not rush or released earlier than it should be.

Lay Summary written by Kelsey D. Vig. Edited by Geoffrey S. Rachor.

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