Increasing COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance Among Vaccine Hesitant Parents Using Psychological Inoculation

Nathaniel Evans has been awarded OIBR seed funding ($5020) through the Grantsmanship Development Program (GDP) for his proposed project titled, “Increasing COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance Among Vaccine Hesitant Parents Using Psychological Inoculation.”

Abract: The objective of the proposed research is to augment vaccine acceptance and coverage by developing and testing intervention strategies that inoculate vaccine hesitant parents against COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. Psychological inoculation (McGuire and Papageorgis, 1961) is analogous to biomedical inoculation, wherein individuals exposed to misinformation weakened by logical fallacies develop “cognitive antibodies” so that they are equipped to defend against future misinformation (van der Linden et al. 2021). Traditional debunking or “supportive” messaging techniques show limited effectiveness in health contexts because they require individuals to develop their own counterarguments against information, whereas psychological inoculation provides individuals with heuristic counterarguments used to fight questionable or potentially deceptive (mis)information (Maertens et al. 2020). Emerging research using inoculation interventions suggest promise for eliciting resistance to anti-vaccine conspiracy theories (Jolley and Douglas 2017) and offers protection to those already exposed to misinformation (Cook et al., 2017; van der Linden et al., 2017). Psychological inoculation transcends the limited effectiveness of existing debunking messaging techniques in a variety of health contexts. Inoculation interventions have untaped potential for changing undesirable vaccine-related attitudes and behaviors and offer protection from future vaccine misinformation. Overall, we believe the successful development and implementation of inoculation interventions is paramount in providing vaccine hesitant individuals the defenses needed to fight current and unforeseen COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and will ultimately increase coverage rates.

Nathaniel J. Evans 

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