The US Federal government in collaboration with Yale University held clinical trials to determine what the best messaging would be to persuade Americans to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it is ready. The news of this study does show an interest in finding the best way to persuade people into an ideal decision for the Federal government, and likely vaccine makers, and it also shows that a mandatory vaccine campaign may still be the plan B down the road, as opposed to plan A.
The official title of the trial is, “Persuasive Messages for COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake: a Randomized Controlled Trial, Part 1.”
According to the brief summary for trial:
This study tests different messages about vaccinating against COVID-19 once the vaccine becomes available. Participants are randomized to 1 of 12 arms, with one control arm and one baseline arm. We will compare the reported willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine at 3 and 6 months of it becoming available between the 10 intervention arms to the 2 control arms.
Study participants are recruited online by Lucid, which matches census based sampling in online recruitment.
The study essentially looks at the best possible messaging that can be used on Americans, ranging from expressing vaccine benefits, to using messaging about economic impact, making someone feel guilty or embarrassed for not taking the vaccine, and so on.
The study looked at around 4000 participants aged 18 years and up, all of whom had to be US residents of course.
The various ‘arms’ used in the study when it came to messaging were as follows:
Other: Control message
Other: Baseline message
Other: Personal freedom message
Other: Economic freedom message
Other: Self-interest message
Other: Community interest message
Other: Economic benefit message
Other: Guilt message
Other: Embarrassment message
Other: Anger message
Other: Trust in science message
Other: Not bravery message
Interestingly, the study also looked at various social elements involved in vaccination, see below:
Primary Outcome Measures :
- Intention to get COVID-19 vaccine [ Time Frame: Immediately after intervention, in the same survey in which the intervention message is provided ]This is a self reported measure, immediately after the intervention message, of the likelihood of getting a COVID-19 vaccination within 3 months and then 6 months of it becoming available. During analysis, responses among those assigned to different intervention messages will be compared to those in the control group.
Secondary Outcome Measures :
- Vaccine confidence scale [ Time Frame: Immediately after intervention, in the same survey in which the intervention message is provided ]This is a validated scale. This scale will be used to assess the impact of the messages on vaccine confidence. (Outcome assessed only for the half of the sample that answers these items post-treatment)
- Persuade others item [ Time Frame: Immediately after intervention, in the same survey in which the intervention message is provided ]This is a measure of a willingness to persuade others to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Fear of those who have not been vaccinated [ Time Frame: Immediately after intervention, in the same survey in which the intervention message is provided ]This is a measure of a comfort with an unvaccinated individual visiting an elderly friend after a vaccine becomes available
- Social judgment of those who do not vaccinate [ Time Frame: Immediately after intervention, in the same survey in which the intervention message is provided ]This is a scale composed of 4 items measuring the trustworthiness, selfishness, likeableness, and competence of those who choose not to get vaccinated after a vaccine becomes available.
Why This Matters: As more credible information about vaccinations and their associated dangers circles the internet and informs people, their choice to not vaccinate in certain situations is increasing. As noted by The World Health Organization, even doctors are starting to question and have a lack of trust in vaccines. Because of all of this, I believe pharmaceutical companies now have to work harder to convince people to get vaccines so their profits can stay where they are at. We are seeing the power of free and open media. You can likely guess you would not see a story like this nor honest coverage about vaccines in mainstream media.