Has the vaccine hesitancy tide turned into a wave of vaccine excitement? Possibly. A new W2O Group study using search and social data found that 80% of Americans are likely willing to get vaccinated.
However, vaccine makers still have their work cut out for them—especially among certain groups of people—and messaging will be critical, W2O Chief Data Officer Seth Duncan said.
Out of four groups of people established for the study, many of those who aren’t inclined to get vaccinated are politically right-leaning. Among the group—defined as those who follow at least three right-leaning politicians, journalists or news outlets—only 41% show a willingness to get a vaccine. That compares with 95% of center left, 93% of the educated left and 91% of the apolitical groups who are ready to get vaccinated.
The high rate of vaccine stubbornness among the right isn’t about a lack of effectiveness or safety—only 9% overall suggest safety is an issue. It actually has more to do with the perception that they’re being told what to do. The No. 1 reason not to get vaccinated across all groups was freedom of choice.
Among the about 60% of right-leaning people who are disinclined to get a vaccine, “they don’t want to take it because they don’t want to be sheep,” Duncan said. “Their overwhelming attitude is there’s some sort of government oppression and it’s anti-American to get the vaccine.”
Another stark difference between the two groups is who should get credit for the vaccines. The right considered the vaccines an achievement for former President Donald Trump, while the left tended to celebrate the efforts of the scientists who created the vaccines so quickly.
The sharp divide makes messaging themes critical for vaccine makers. W2O advises them to reach as many people as possible by being inclusive about all the achievements of everyone involved. Specifically for the right-leaning audience, marketers need to stress that the vaccines are voluntary. As Duncan said, they’re already weary of public health browbeating and would be critical of mandates forcing vaccinations.
W2O also suggests enlisting nurses and physicians, the most-trusted sources of healthcare advice, to help endorse vaccines and lead by action to encourage more vaccinations.
The most important communications, however, may be those from local and state health officials. Those officials need to be clear and credible on the basics of when, where and how people can get vaccinated.
“Public health departments cannot promise that a vaccine will be available at a certain time and not deliver on it. It’s better to be conservative in estimates about when it will be available. And the process for getting it has to be straightforward,” Duncan said. “Or else people who are on the fence will just throw their hands up and say ‘why even bother?’"