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Effect of Information about COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness and Side Effects on Behavioural Intentions: Two Online Experiments

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Kerr, John R. 
Freeman, Alexandra L. J.  ORCID logo
Marteau, Theresa M. 
van der Linden, Sander 


The success of mass COVID-19 vaccination campaigns rests on widespread uptake. However, although vaccinations provide good protection, they do not offer full immunity and while they likely reduce transmission of the virus to others, the extent of this remains uncertain. This produces a dilemma for communicators who wish to be transparent about benefits and harms and encourage continued caution in vaccinated individuals but not undermine confidence in an important public health measure. In two large pre-registered experimental studies on quota-sampled UK public participants we investigate the effects of providing transparent communication—including uncertainty—about vaccination effectiveness on decision-making. In Study 1 (n = 2097) we report that detailed information about COVID-19 vaccines, including results of clinical trials, does not have a significant impact on beliefs about the efficacy of such vaccines, concerns over side effects, or intentions to receive a vaccine. Study 2 (n = 2217) addressed concerns that highlighting the need to maintain protective behaviours (e.g., social distancing) post-vaccination may lower perceptions of vaccine efficacy and willingness to receive a vaccine. We do not find evidence of this: transparent messages did not significantly reduce perceptions of vaccine efficacy, and in some cases increased perceptions of efficacy. We again report no main effect of messages on intentions to receive a vaccine. The results of both studies suggest that transparently informing people of the limitations of vaccinations does not reduce intentions to be vaccinated but neither does it increase intentions to engage in protective behaviours post-vaccination.



COVID-19, vaccination, hesitancy, communication, vaccine messaging

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