Is this the solution to increasing Covid-19 vaccine uptake?

The largest ever study of Covid-19 vaccine messaging shows that emphasising the personal benefits rather than collective of vaccination may be the most effective way to persuade people who are sceptical.

Researchers from the University of Oxford, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and the Oxford Health BRC, tested the responses of a representative group of 18,885 UK adults to a variety of Covid-19 vaccine messaging. The results are published in the journal The Lancet Public Health.

The Oxford Coronavirus Explanations, Attitudes, and Narratives Survey (OCEANS III) revealed that the most effective way of encouraging vaccine-hesitant individuals to consider vaccination was to emphasise the personal benefits, highlighting the fact that even relatively young and fit individuals are still at risk of getting seriously ill or struggling with long-term Covid-related problems. This group was also receptive to information that directly addressed fears that the vaccines have been developed too fast to be safe and effective.

Professor Daniel Freeman, Study Lead, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, said: “Much of the official messaging around Covid-19 vaccination draws on the idea of collective responsibility – that it benefits all of us to get the jab. For most people in the UK, it’s a message that definitely resonates. But for the significant minority of people who remain sceptical about Covid-19 vaccination, another approach may be needed. Our study suggests that the best approach now may be putting personal benefits front and centre in media campaigns.”

Participants were randomly asked to read one of ten texts, each of which provided different information about the vaccines. After reading their allocated text, participants completed an assessment of willingness to be vaccinated for Covid-19. In December, half of people taking part in OCEANS-II said that they would get the vaccine as soon as possible, where now in OCEANS-III almost three quarters of participants said they would get the vaccine as soon as possible. Nevertheless, nearly one in ten people remain strongly vaccine hesitant.

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