Despite being one of the most powerful public health tools available to modern medicine, vaccination participation has declined sharply in recent years across the wealthy developed world. This issue was sharply spotlighted during CoVID-19 and is likely to continue to feature as regular boosters keep serious illness at bay.
In late 2020/early ’21, Interactions set out to identify meaningful attitudinal sub-sets within the Irish population, so public health may understand and directly address each segment’s unique combination of vaccination triggers and barriers.
We know that individuals who question vaccination are prolific and energetic online researchers. Analysis has found vaccine-hesitant clusters are closely entangled with more extreme anti-vaccine and conspiracy clusters, where a proliferation of narratives offers something to suit every palate. Pro-vaccination messaging, on the other hand, tends to be isolated in social media space (Johnson et al, 2020).
Working with Garry Prentice of Dublin Business School, we developed a comprehensive survey to explore the components of vaccine decisions in an Irish context. 1,995 participants were recruited and took part anonymously via an online survey.
- Anticipated regret was the strongest driving force behind intentions to accept a vaccine.
- Other contributors were how it might feel to accept a vaccine, what respected others would advise one to do and expected ability to accept a vaccine.
Six distinct subsets of the population were identified: ‘Wholehearted’ (A) and ‘Discerning Proponents’ (B) registered above average, more proactive, vaccine intentions, while ‘On the fence’ (C), ‘Disengaged Cynics’ (D), ‘Worried Sceptics’ (E) and ‘Emphatic Rejectors’ (F), indicated somewhat more hesitant vaccine intentions.
With vaccine perceptions influenced by such diverse factors as past health behaviours, individual knowledge, attitudes and beliefs, social networks, messages about vaccine safety, communication environment, cultural and religious influences, organization of health services and expectations created by political leaders, pro-vaccine messaging would do well to adapt a more nuanced approach to be more relevant to those researching vaccination online.
Future directions: Interactions is continuing to partner with stakeholders in testing research questions alongside a shortened questionnaire that calculates respondents’ segment membership. Individuals or organisations who wish to find out more, or to get involved in this project, or to commission a bespoke piece of research, are invited to get in touch with Claire (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The full project paper can be accessed here: https://rdcu.be/cB71Z