The first 200 million COVID-19 vaccines rolled out across America at a lightning pace with people coming out in droves to roll up their sleeves and receive their best chance of never contracting or dying from the novel coronavirus.
Now after 300 million doses delivered, encouraging the rest of Americans to take the shot has proved a major challenge. Vaccine reluctance is especially prominent among Republicans, 42% of which say they will not get vaccinated. The second-largest group of leery people is black adults. They are at a 35% rate of no-go. Essential workers are refusing at a 33% clip. Surprisingly, nurses and cops are among the most reluctant to get vaccinated.
Scientific American polled top researchers, sociologists and psychologists about the best way to overcome vaccine reluctance. They came up with an array of suggestions, including:
- Facts Will Not Persuade
Health professionals already have experience with vaccine reluctance after the idea that vaccines cause autism became a widespread belief in 2014. Experience showed that presenting parents with hard facts proving this to be a false belief had almost no impact on changing minds. Thus, the recommendation is to abandon a fact-based approach in favor of letting pro-vaccination information come from “trusted messengers,” such as local ministers, respected people in the community and local doctors that people have known for some time.
- Work With Black and Native Civic Leaders
Black populations have good reason to mistrust vaccines. Horrific events, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in which hundreds of black males were purposefully infected with syphilis between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service and Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Here again, the suggested approach is to leverage the influence of trusted black civic leaders, pastors, popular athletes, scientists and others to take the message of COVID vaccine safety to their communities.
- Strongly Guarantee Freedom from Cost
As especially vaccine reluctant demographic are people who live in low-income communities. Public information campaigns directed at these communities should strongly emphasize that the vaccines are 100% cost-free. Also, setting up convenient locations within five to 10-minute walking distances to vaccination sites is critical to bringing more people in to take their jab.
- Overcome Procrastination
One of the simplest reasons people don’t get vaccinated is that they are just putting it off. A study done by Rutgers University showed that people given an “opt-out appointment” to get vaccinated are 36% more likely to get vaccinated when compared to groups of people simply left to schedule their own vaccine appointment. Thus, the idea is to send out non-coercive appointments. People are free to ignore them – but more people will come in and get the shot.