Mask-wearing as an Unspoken Statement of One’s Identity during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract: Interpreting a facemask as an unspoken statement of one’s identity during the COVID-19 pandemic based on product symbolism theory, the present study examines the relationships among one’s trust in a) government, b) the scientific community, and c) the media, perceived similarity with other mask-wearers, and mask-wearing. Based on an online survey, this study found that participants’ trust in these health information sources was positively associated with perceived similarity with other mask-wearers, which then led to a higher level of mask-wearing behavior.

Communication in Context: How Culture, Structure and Agency Shape Health and Risk Communication about COVID-19 in Ghana

Abstract: Despite impressive strides toward proper health education about the pandemic, in resource-limited contexts, health information dissemination occurs within a structural context that restricts the enactment of agency and leads to further marginalization of the most vulnerable. Through observations of and reflections about Ghana’s work in health communication about the COVID-19 pandemic, this essay examines the key processes and outcomes of COVID-19 information dissemination in Ghana, highlighting the structural factors that contribute to health inequities during the pandemic. We argue that although Ghana has been commended continentally and globally for the country’s efforts in containing the virus and securing vaccines to vaccinate its populace, there is evidence of health information access disparities across the country especially in rural communities. In doing so, we increase knowledge about health information needs and gaps, and conclude by making recommendations for public health practitioners in Ghana and similar contexts.

Looking Ahead: Caregivers’ COVID-19 Vaccination Intention for Children 5 years old and younger

Abstract: Little research has been conducted to examine parents’ intention to vaccinate their young children for COVID19. An online survey with a national U.S. sample of 682 primary caregivers of children under age six assessed variables associated with intention to accept the COVID-19 vaccine for their children from November 13, 2020, to December 8, 2020. 

Caregivers whose child received a recent influenza vaccine, as well as those with previous experience COVID-19, were more likely to express COVID-19 vaccination intention for their young child. Identifying as female was associated with lower COVID-19 vaccination intention, while identifying as Hispanic or Latino was associated with higher intention. Health Belief Model variables of perceived severity of COVID-19 for their child, as well as vaccine confidence, were positive predictors of COVID-19 vaccine intention and mediated the relationship between prior behavior, demographic variables, and intention. The findings highlight the importance of early, proactive COVID-19 vaccination education efforts directed at caregivers with young children. Vaccines for young children will likely become a necessary part of ending the pandemic’s impact in school settings. Operationally, COVID-19 vaccination may also become a part of childhood vaccination schedules. Understanding the beliefs and intentions of caregivers of young children before vaccinations are recommended for children will enable public health officials and medical practitioners to prepare in advance. 

COVID-19 Vaccination and Public Health Communication Strategies: An In-depth Look at How Demographics, Political Ideology, and News/Information Source Preference Matter

Abstract: Widely accepted public health actions and recommendations, particularly those related to vaccines, are critical to U.S. and global responses to infectious disease pandemics, such as COVID-19. Drawing from nationally published COVID-19 public opinion polls as well as social and behavioral science related to vaccination acceptance, this study used a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults 18 years-old and older, undertaken in November-December 2020, to examine how four key demographic characteristics (sex, age, race/ethnicity, education), political ideology (liberal, moderate, conservative), and news/information source preference (liberal, conservative, balanced) were related to COVID-19 vaccination intentions, COVID-19 risk-benefit perceptions, interest and attention to COVID-19 information, self-reported level of being informed on key COVID-19 items, and trust and use of common COVID-19 information sources. Multiple associations were found, with most having important implications for strategic communication efforts related to COVID-19 vaccination and other preventive health recommendations.

The Persuasive Effects of Narrative PSAs on COVID-19 Vaccination Intention: The Mediating Role of Empathy and Psychological Reactance

Abstract: Successful COVID-19 vaccine promotion for the unvaccinated relies on increasing positive reactions but also reducing negative responses to persuasive messages. The current study examined the relative effects of narrative vs. non-narrative public service announcements (PSAs) promoting COVID-19 vaccination on both positive and negative reactions. We explored the role of empathy and psychological reactance as underlying mechanisms. Results of an experiment involving unvaccinated young adults indicate that the narrative (vs. non-narrative) PSAs led to greater empathy. While no direct effects of message type emerged on psychological reactance or vaccination intention, results of a serial multi-mediator model confirmed that empathy and psychological reactance mediated the effects of message type on vaccination intention, yielding theoretical and practical implications for research and practice in COVID-19 vaccination and health communication.

Factors that Impact COVID-19 Conspirational Beliefs and Health-Related Behaviors

Abstract: To further investigate the role of conspirational beliefs on health-related behaviors during a health pandemic such as COVID-19, we conducted an online survey among U.S. adults (N = 798) to examine: (1) the strengths of different groups of individual-level variables in predicting conspiracy beliefs about COVID-19 and related health behaviors; and (2) the role of beliefs in conspiracy theories about COVID-19 in mediating the relationship between individual differences and COVID-19 health-related behaviors. Our findings provide implications to pandemic communication theory and practice.

Trust and Cultural Factors Shaping COVID-19 Vaccination Intentions across Six Countries

Abstract: Based on a COVID-19 pandemic communication survey (N = 3,124) in Australia, Finland, Italy, South Korea, Sweden, and the United States, our study examined how trust in government sources affects the vaccination intention and how this translates into cross-national variations in the outcome. Our findings revealed that the direct effect of trust in government sources on vaccination intention and the indirect effect via power distance and uncertainty avoidance varied across the six countries.

Trust: The Shrouded Public Health Threat

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic, characterized by unprecedented loss of life; political instability; and a global infodemic, has eroded public trust in all types of institutions (Edelman, 2021) except business. Public health efforts at managing the pandemic have consequently suffered as political polarization and rampant online misinformation has undermined the uptake of critical preventive measures such as masking and vaccinating (Nehum, et al., 2021). Public-facing health organizations are particularly vulnerable to trust erosion (Samson, 2021), as their relationships with publics are often matters of life and death. Their inability to address trust erosion could potentially result in fatalities and unintended societal consequences. Understanding the trust erosion process is integral to keeping the public safe and allowing these important organizations to continue fulfilling their public health and safety missions. This study proposes a new Trust Erosion Framework, grounded in extant trust scholarship and ongoing industry discussion, to describe and explain the trust erosion phenomenon and associated processes. Moreover, the study provides insight for health and risk communicators regarding the prevention, mitigation, conservation and restoration of trust among the public.

How Emotional Appeals in Health Promotion Messages and User-generated Comments Impact COVID-19 Vaccination Intention: The Mediating Role of Psychological Reactance

Abstract: To close existing research gap and combat vaccine hesitancy among young adults, we conduct this study to integrate psychological reactance theory to better understand the effectiveness of three emerging yet understudied emotional appeals (i.e., guilt, shame, and pride) in health risk context. The current research has two goals: (1) to examine how different emotional appeals (guilt vs. shame vs. pride) and user-generated comments toward COVID-19 vaccine messages independently or interactively affect psychological reactance and (2) to understand the mediating role of psychological reactance between emotional appeals and user-generated comments and desired behavioral outcomes. An experimental study with 3 (guilt vs. shame vs. pride) by 2 (positive-valenced comments vs. negative-valenced comments) between-subjects factorial design will be conducted with college students (aged 18-24) at a large public university in the United States. Our findings strengthen the theoretical foundation on how health risk messages with user-generated comments interactively can predict undesired health outcomes. Our study also helps health organizations design more effective messages targeting at young adults by lowering psychological reactance and enhancing persuasive power in motivating COVID-19 vaccination.