North Carolina State University

Experts tap into behavioral research to promote COVID-19 vaccination in the U

Newswise — As the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out, it is still unclear whether enough Americans are willing to be vaccinated to allow the nation to return to normalcy. Many believe a key part of the equation lies in how effective vaccine communication teams are at convincing the public to get vaccinated. And the key to effective communication tactics in promoting the vaccines may lie in demonstrated behavioral economics and consumer behavior theory, experts say.

"The country has made an incredible investment in fast-tracking SARS-CoV-2 vaccines from conception to market, which would make it even more tragic if we fail to curtail the virus simply because Americans are hesitant to be vaccinated," says Stacy Wood, an expert on how consumers respond to change and innovation, and first author of a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Beyond Politics - Promoting COVID-19 Vaccination in the U.S." Wood is a professor of marketing and executive director of the Consumer Innovation Collaborative at the NC State Poole College of Management

Recent surveys indicate that the proportion of the U.S. population willing to be vaccinated has fluctuated in recent months - from a high of 72 percent in May, to 51 percent in September and increasing slightly to 60 percent in November. Of those respondents who indicated that they probably or definitely would not get the vaccine, less than half said they might be open to vaccination once others start getting it and more information becomes available.

Since Anthony Fauci has said that at least 80% of the population will need to be vaccinated to get the country back to normalcy, Wood notes that this means it will be necessary to get 100% follow-through from those who are more likely to get the vaccine and 100% conversion of those who are unlikely now but willing to keep an open mind. That's a daunting prospect.

To address this challenge, Wood and her colleague Kevin Schulman of Stanford drew on their expertise in behavioral economics and consumer research to develop 12 strategies that could, collectively, create an effective vaccine-promotion effort.

Proposed strategies include: 

  • Use Analogy: Many attitudes toward the current pandemic are responses to complex medical information. Analogies are short-cuts to conceptual understanding. Saying "the war against COVID" is a term rich in meaning-coming together, making sacrifices, doing tough things, and emerging on the other side with new improvements and inventions in hand. Or one can explain that mRNA vaccines are not weak doses of the virus, but instead are "instruction manuals" that teach the immune system how to defend itself. 
  • Increase Observability: Studies have shown consumers' ability to observe others' choices can increase an innovation's rate of adoption. Distributing tokens, such as Livestrong-style bracelets or stickers, or digital badges, such as social media profile frames, may prove to be effective in increasing consumer buy-in. They can even be specific to different populations (e.g. stickers that say "COVID-19 Frontline Hero -- I'm Vaccinated!" or "America Honors Her Veterans -- I'm Vaccinated!") 
  • Leverage Natural Scarcity: In consumer markets, scarcity often signals exclusivity and prompts greater interest or desirability. Communicators should frame early access to vaccines as a mark of honor or respect for people we want to protect, such as the elderly, teachers or essential workers. Leveraging scarcity, especially as the vaccine is slowly rolled out, may help to counteract many individuals' natural hesitancy to "go first." 
  • Promote Compromise Options: Consider coffee shops that offer three serving sizes and typically sell more of the middle option. This decision rule-of-thumb is based on choice preferences for "compromise" or middle options. When it comes to the vaccine, communicators should not make vaccination seem like an either-or decision, but rather should frame it as three options where vaccination is in the middle. For instance, options could include allowing people to get the shot now, signing up for a later date, or not getting it at all. Or all three options could include the vaccine - such as get the shot now and donate plasma, simply get the shot now, or get the shot later. The key is to avoid depicting vaccination as the most extreme action in a range of choices.




For the full list of strategies, see the paper - which is published open access in the New England Journal of Medicine. The paper was authored by Stacy Wood, Langdon Distinguished University Professor of Marketing in NC State's Poole College of Management, and Kevin Schulman, professor of medicine and, by courtesy, of economics, at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.


Filters close

Showing results

110 of 5867
Released: 24-Jun-2021 11:00 AM EDT
New protein engineering method could accelerate the discovery of COVID-19 therapeutics
University of Michigan

Discovering and engineering nanobodies with properties suitable for treating human diseases ranging from cancer to COVID-19 is a time-consuming, laborious process.

Newswise: Decoding humans’ survival from coronaviruses
Released: 24-Jun-2021 11:00 AM EDT
Decoding humans’ survival from coronaviruses
University of Adelaide

An international team of researchers co-led by the University of Adelaide and the University of Arizona has analysed the genomes of more than 2,500 modern humans from 26 worldwide populations, to better understand how humans have adapted to historical coronavirus outbreaks.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 29-Jun-2021 4:00 PM EDT Released to reporters: 24-Jun-2021 10:35 AM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 29-Jun-2021 4:00 PM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Newswise: COVIDLockdownSimulations.jpg
Released: 24-Jun-2021 10:00 AM EDT
Pandemic Air Quality Affected By Weather, Not Just Lockdowns
Washington University in St. Louis

Using a diverse set of tools, the lab of Randall Martin shows how the pandemic did – or didn’t – affect levels of particulate matter during COVID lockdowns.

Released: 24-Jun-2021 6:05 AM EDT
Longest known SARS-CoV-2 infection of nearly 300 days successfully treated with new therapy
University of Bristol

An immunocompromised individual with the longest known PCR confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 infection, lasting more than 290 days, has been successfully treated with two investigational monoclonal antibodies (laboratory engineered antibodies). Clinicians and researchers from the University of Bristol and North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT) worked closely to assess and treat the infection and want to highlight the urgent need for improved access to treatments for such people with persistent SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Released: 23-Jun-2021 3:55 PM EDT
Cooperative Extension grant aims to vaccinate NYS’ vulnerable
Cornell University

A two-year, $200,000 grant from the USDA and the Extension Foundation to Cornell University researchers aims to help promote vaccine confidence and uptake in vulnerable communities in eight New York counties, both upstate and downstate.

Released: 23-Jun-2021 12:10 PM EDT
Phone swabs can accurately detect COVID-19
University College London

An accurate, non-invasive, and low-cost method of testing for COVID-19 using samples taken from the screens of mobile phones has been developed by a team led by UCL researchers at Diagnosis Biotech.

Newswise: NIH study suggests COVID-19 prevalence far exceeded early pandemic cases
Released: 23-Jun-2021 11:35 AM EDT
NIH study suggests COVID-19 prevalence far exceeded early pandemic cases
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering

In a new study, NIH researchers report that the prevalence of COVID-19 in the United States during spring and summer of 2020 far exceeded the known number of cases and that infection affected the country unevenly.

Released: 23-Jun-2021 11:25 AM EDT
Half of young adults with covid-19 have persistent symptoms 6 months after
University of Bergen

A paper published in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine on long-COVID, describes persistent symptoms six months after acute COVID-19, even in young home isolated people.

Newswise:Video Embedded covid-19-vaccine-hesitancy-dr-vin-gupta-narrates-new-american-thoracic-society-video
Released: 23-Jun-2021 9:40 AM EDT
COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy: Dr. Vin Gupta Narrates New American Thoracic Society Video
American Thoracic Society (ATS)

The American Thoracic Society rolls out a new video to address vaccine hesitancy and answer common questions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Showing results

110 of 5867