Vaccine reluctance and the use of narrative risk messaging

Vaccination rates can be increased through public health campaigns that emphasize the need of protecting others rather than only the individual, according to research. A major obstacle for those working to lessen the harm caused by infectious illnesses is people’s reluctance to get vaccinated. Three visual policy narrative messages were examined by Elizabeth Shanahan and colleagues to encourage COVID-19 immunization, with different versions emphasizing individual, social, and communal safety. A syringe and the words “get the vaccine” appeared in a non-narrative control message. In early 2021, the writers polled 3,900 persons and gave each responder a random assignment of one of the messages. The researchers were able to follow up with 2,268 of the original participants eight weeks later to find out if any of them had decided to obtain the vaccine in that time. The likelihood that a person will get vaccinated against COVID-19 is greater under the “defend others” condition (the meaning of “protect your circle” and “protect your community”) than under the “protect yourself” condition. All narrative messages that elicited a favorable emotional response and incentive to obtain the vaccine resulted in increased vaccination rates eight weeks later compared to the control message, despite the fact that narrative conditions had no direct influence on vaccination behavior. According to the authors, the findings demonstrate the efficacy of employing narrative creation in public health communication.