The Psychology Behind COVID-19 Vaccines

As COVID-19 vaccines become more readily available, so too does misinformation about their safety and effectiveness. Psychology can actually play an important role in combating vaccine hesitancy, by helping people determine the best way to debunk falsehoods and communicating accurate information. Read on to learn more about COVID-19 vaccine psychology in Havre, MT.

Importance of vaccine acceptance

In order for the pandemic to end, experts estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the population must become immune to achieve herd immunity. This would dramatically reduce the number of carriers who would spread the virus. Fewer carriers means fewer cases, which also means fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths.

However, herd immunity is only achievable if enough people choose to be vaccinated. As with any vaccine, some people may be ineligible for getting vaccinated, but a greater obstacle to reaching herd immunity is people who can be vaccinated but choose not to be.

Reasons for vaccine mistrust

Vaccine hesitancy can range from people who prefer to “wait and see” to those who flat out refuse vaccination altogether. Some are skeptical about how quickly vaccines have been developed, even though much of the groundwork was already done, with worldwide cooperation and ample funding allowing for research and clinical trials to be further fast-tracked. There are also those who mistrust vaccines based on emotion or ideology, as well as those who believe that COVID-19 is a conspiracy or deny its existence altogether.

Certain people may also have legitimate concerns about the medical community that is based on personal and historical experiences, rather than misinformation. Many black Americans remember the abuse endured by the participants of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which the United States Public Health Service purposely misled and withheld syphilis treatment from poor black men. Many black Americans have also reported personal incidents of racism in seeking healthcare.

Clear and empathetic communication

With so much at stake, those who trust vaccines might be inclined to shame those who are reluctant to be vaccinated. However, research indicates that positive reinforcement, such as appealing to their sense of hope and altruism, is more effective than negative tactics in encouraging vaccination. It’s also important to keep in mind and be sensitive to the fact that not everybody who wants the vaccine is eligible to receive it.

Additionally, don’t underestimate how powerful personal experiences can be in vaccine communication. The initial slow start of the vaccine rollout may have had the unintended benefit of generating proof of the vaccines’ relative safety and effectiveness. Even those who are most opposed to vaccination are not beyond reach—reframe vaccination as a right that they’re entitled to, as opposed to an obligation they must take on.

If your mental health is impacted by the COVID-19 vaccine debate in Havre, MT, reach out to Ellen Savage LCPC. Our in-person or virtual counseling options can help walk you through any difficult feelings and conflicts that you may be experiencing over COVID-19 vaccination. Contact us today to learn more about our services and schedule your first session.