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Study: How vaccination campaigns and media coverage might influence the motivation of Covid-vaccine sceptics

Online survey among 1,500 unvaccinated Corona vaccine sceptics
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(Vienna, 22 October 2021) In a representative online survey conducted by the Medical University of Vienna under the direction of Tanja Stamm, together with political science and communication experts from the University of Vienna, 1,500 unvaccinated Covid-vaccine sceptics evaluated hypothetical vaccination campaigns and fictitious media reports about COVID-19 vaccines with a view to sounding out potential motivators. It appeared that the "desire to return to normality" might motivate people to take up the Covid vaccination, as well as recommendations from doctors and from the federal government.

"The aim of our study was to find out what type of hypothetical vaccination campaign was most likely to motivate those who were hesitant or sceptical to be vaccinated after all. We also wanted to know how to communicate information on the effectiveness of vaccination and any side effects. To this end, the survey included two so-called conjoint experiments," explains Tanja Stamm from the Institute for Outcomes Research at MedUni Vienna.

Recommendations from doctors and federal government more relevant than from celebrities
In the first experiment, respondents were shown a selection of different appeals to get vaccinated and asked for their opinions and attitudes to them. The various themes were based on scientific literature. The experiment showed that the desire to return to normality was a stronger motivator for getting vaccinated than, for example, protecting oneself or protecting others. Rule changes (e.g. 2-G instead of 3-G) were perceived as being worse than sticking with the current rules. Likewise, recommendations from doctors in particular, but also from the federal government, appeared to be more effective than those from celebrities, for example. A vaccination lottery met with little enthusiasm.

Media reports about vaccine breakthrough infections are unsettling

In the second experiment, respondents were presented with a selection of fictitious media reports on the subject of vaccination: "While reports on vaccine breakthrough infections had a deterrent effect, reports on the good efficacy of the vaccines left a positive impression, although the ratio of vaccine breakthrough infections was chosen to correspond to the actual expected number given the efficacy of the vaccine," says Tanja Stamm. "How the vaccine was reported therefore made a difference."

Infographics surprisingly unconvincing
Unexpectedly, the use of an infographic was less effective than simple text messages without a graphic. "It may be that graphical representations are difficult to understand for those not used to interpreting them or may even be unintentionally off-putting." The participants also reported that they would have more confidence in a standard EU approval for a coronavirus vaccine than a uniquely Austrian approval.

In summary however, the study authors believe that, overall, all these benefits could be minimal. This may be due to the fact that some of those who still did not want to opt for vaccination in autumn 2021 already have very strongly entrenched opinions that cannot be influenced to any significant extent by positive incentives or effective communication. It is therefore all the more important that current and future vaccination campaigns reach those unvaccinated people who are still hesitant with clear messages and via a wide variety of channels.

"Conjoint experiments on communication about vaccination in the Coronavirus crisis". Tanja Stamm, Erika Mosor, Valentin Ritschl (Medical University of Vienna, Institute for Outcomes Research), Julia Partheymüller, Sylvia Kritzinger (University of Vienna, Institute for Political Science), Jakob-Moritz Eberl (University of Vienna, Institute for Journalism and Communication Studies)