The 5 Cs of vaccine hesitancy
The development of vaccines that reduce the severity of COVID-19 infection has been met with mixed reactions. Many have already gotten the jab but there are some who are vaccine-hesitant.
According to a May 2021 report by the International Monetary Fund, reasons for hesitancy and lower vaccination rates typically involve concerns about the efficacy of the vaccines and unforeseeable side effects.
Despite the hesitancy, a large proportion of those reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine are supportive of vaccines overall and should not be confused with “anti-vaxxers”.
To understand why some are doubtful of the COVID-19 vaccine in particular, psychologist Cornelia Betsch and colleagues came up with the 5C’s scale to describe the five factors responsible.
1. Confidence in vaccine safety
According to the research, the main culprit behind vaccine hesitancy is the fear of unforeseeable secondary effects.
Since our brains struggle to understand risks that are very high or very low - such as the small risk of developing blood clots from the AstraZeneca jab - we calculate risk based on how many examples of the risk we can think of.
“When deciding whether to get the AstraZeneca jab, people are sometimes hesitant because of the incredible amount of media coverage about the risk of blood clots, the personals tories that are presented, and the rare reports from all over the world,” says Jason Tangen, an associate professor of cognitive science at the University of Queensland.
“The same goes for reports of vaccine side effects. When thinking about whether to get the jab or not, these examples flood to mind.”
This factor refers to our own perception of the likelihood we’ll contract the disease. For some of those who are vaccine-hesitant, they may argue that they are not that likely to catch the virus since they haven’t gotten sick up until this point.
For some, the difficulty to get vaccinated can be behind their vaccine hesitancy. This can include insufficient information available in different languages and issues accessing vaccination clinics.
Introducing pop-up vaccination clinics, expanding the information available across languages, and allowing parents to bring children to their vaccination appointments are just some of the ways governments can and have responded to issues of access.
With vaccine misinformation as freely available as reliable information, how someone weighs up the pros and cons of getting vaccinated will depend on which sources they find and rely on.
5. Collective Responsibility
Referring to a willingness to protect others through one’s own actions, collective responsibility has seen some people getting vaccinated despite being hesitant.
For others, social responsibility has seen them argue that they would rather not be vaccinated but still be protected by those around them who are.
What we can do
If someone you know is hesitant to get the vaccine, understanding why can help start a conversation with them without making incorrect assumptions.
Acknowledging any fears they may have about getting vaccinated - such as concerns about severe illness or a fear of needles - and identifying an action they can take to ease those fears - such as getting vaccinated - can also help to encourage them to get the jab.