Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy linked to concerns over origin of virus: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 20, 2020

Behavioural and demographic factors too an impact on vaccination and origin beliefs

A study carried out by researchers at the University College of London and Dokuz Eylul University in Turkey has revealed that more than a third of the people (34 per cent) in Turkey and one-sixth of the people (17 per cent) in the United Kingdom are ‘hesitant’ about a Covid-19 vaccine.

The research, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, surveyed over 5,000 participants in Turkey and the UK on their willingness to get vaccinated with a Covid-19 vaccine whenever it hits the market, as well as on their views on the origin of the novel coronavirus. The findings show high levels of Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy.

For the study, the researchers examined the factors associated with the acceptance of a Covid-19 vaccine.

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One of the key factors that drove the person’s lack of faith in the vaccine is the origin of the novel coronavirus that is yet to be figured out, they observed.

For those who believed in the natural origin of the virus, the odds of acceptance of the vaccine were 26 per cent higher in Turkey and 63 per cent higher in the UK, compared to those not sure of the origin of the virus.

In Turkey, participants who believed in the artificial origin of the coronavirus in a lab were 54 per cent more likely to be vaccine-hesitant.

Lead author, Dr Gul Deniz Salali, an evolutionary anthropologist at UCL, said in a statement: “From an evolutionary point of view, natural selection should favour a bias towards making the least costly decision when there is uncertainty.”

He added: “This is why when people face a choice between taking a specific action or doing nothing, they sometimes prefer to do nothing. This cognitive bias, called the omission bias, may kick in when people make vaccination decisions.”

The study also stated other behavioural and demographic factors that had an impact on vaccination and origin beliefs.

Also read: Covid-19: Fear of job loss haunts half of world’s workers as pandemic crisis rages

Their study revealed that participants who had higher levels of pandemic-related anxieties were more likely to accept Covid-19 vaccination. Compared to women, men in Turkey were more likely to accept a Covid-19 vaccine and believe in the natural origin of the virus.

Dr Salali commented: “From an evolutionary perspective, emotions can be seen as detectors helping us to avoid death or promote reproduction, especially under uncertainty. The positive correlation between Covid-19-related anxiety and vaccine acceptance can be rooted in the adaptive function of anxiety in decreasing the mortality risk.”

“Because women are more likely to take healthcare decisions for their children, they may also be more likely to seek out information about vaccines and be exposed to online anti-vaccination content. Moreover, women score higher on disgust sensitivity which is associated with vaccine hesitancy,” he added.

The study’s findings suggest that wider communication is needed to target Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy.

Published on October 20, 2020

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