Addressing attitudes towards vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic

Newswise – Tsukuba, Japan – Around the world, reluctance to vaccinate is proving to be a stumbling block in ensuring much-needed protection against the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Today, Japanese researchers have discovered specific factors that influence attitudes towards vaccines, which is valuable knowledge for tackling vaccine hesitancy.

In a study published last month in Vaccines, researchers at the University of Tsukuba reported dramatic changes in vaccine acceptance over a 5-month period during the COVID-19 pandemic. Detailed information on the causes of these changes could help tackle the low vaccination rate in specific populations.

Reluctance to immunize is a complex behavior influenced by a wide range of factors including knowledge, information, social norms, emotions, health literacy, perceptions of risk, trust in government and medical institutions and past experience. Attitudes towards vaccines are particularly affected by personal health, circumstances and emotions, as well as by new information, changes in the economic climate and observation of the behaviors of others. At present, the ways in which these factors influence vaccine reluctance are not well understood, particularly with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is something that researchers at the University of Tsukuba wanted to solve.

“Reluctance to vaccinate delays vaccination decision-making and poses a serious threat to global health,” says lead author of the study, Professor Takayuki Harada. “Because people in Japan are known to have a low level of confidence in the safety of vaccines, we wanted to investigate a wide range of factors that could impact vaccine reluctance and acceptance. “

To do this, the researchers conducted an online survey in which Japanese people of different age groups were asked to provide their socio-demographic information and answer questions about their attitudes toward vaccination over a 5-month period. The questions focused on behavioral and psychosocial factors, such as health-related behaviors, risk perceptions of COVID-19, anxiety, and attitudes towards science and pseudoscience. The reasons for attitude changes over time were also explored.

“The results have been surprising,” says Professor Harada. “We found that over the 5 month period, vaccine acceptance rates more than doubled among participants.”

As might be expected, health-related behaviors such as regular check-ups and flu shots were consistently associated with high vaccine acceptance.

“Our results indicate that circumstances and psychological factors such as anxiety and risk perception are related to changes in attitude towards vaccination. Thus, interdisciplinary approaches are needed to improve the effectiveness of vaccination programs, ”explains Professor Harada.

Understanding how internal and external factors influence vaccine uptake can lead to new strategies for disseminating vaccine-related information in a more individualized manner, as well as facilitating the development of psychological interventions to address reluctance and disease. anxiety about vaccination. Combined, these efforts could increase the vaccination rate and reduce the overall societal impact of COVID-19 and future pandemics.

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The article, “Changes in vaccine reluctance in Japan for five months during the COVID-19 pandemic and its related factors” was published in the journal Vaccines at DOI: 10.3390 / vaccines10010025.

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