Explaining the Mechanism Behind mRNA Vaccines Influences Perceived Vaccine Effectiveness but not Vaccination Intentions

A Randomized Experiment

Authors

  • Lisa Felgendreff Institute for Planetary Health Behaviour, University of Erfurt, Germany; Health Communication, BNITM Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Germany https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8356-8061
  • Felix G. Rebitschek Harding Center for Risk Literacy, University of Potsdam, Germany https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7653-8278
  • Mattis Geiger Institute for Planetary Health Behaviour, University of Erfurt, Germany; Health Communication, BNITM Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Germany
  • Parichehr Shamsrizi Institute for Planetary Health Behaviour, University of Erfurt, Germany; Health Communication, BNITM Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Germany https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0376-0967
  • Mirjam A. Jenny Institute for Planetary Health Behaviour, University of Erfurt, Germany; Health Communication, BNITM Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Germany https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5045-5105
  • Cornelia Betsch Institute for Planetary Health Behaviour, University of Erfurt, Germany; Health Communication, BNITM Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Germany https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2856-7303

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.47368/ejhc.2024.102

Keywords:

vaccine hesitancy, educational intervention, analogy, SARS-CoV-2-pandemic, informed decision-making, fact box

Abstract

Vaccine effectiveness and safety concerns can prevent people from receiving their first Covid-19 vaccines or boosters. Understanding the vaccine mechanism may lead people to perceive vaccine effectiveness appropriately. This study tested whether helping people understand the vaccine’s mechanism could improve their perceived vaccine safety and effectiveness. In a preregistered study, N = 1,548 unvaccinated or non-boosted participants were randomly presented with one of three communication formats: a fact box (a benefit-risk profile in tabular format; control condition), an expository text (i.e., a purely factual explanation) plus fact box, or an analogy plus fact box. Participants rated the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing a Covid-19 disease, their perceived risk of getting vaccinated, and their intention to get vaccinated or boosted (depending on their vaccination status). Reading either additional text about the vaccines’ mechanism increased participants’ effectiveness ratings for the vaccine to prevent Covid-19 but did not affect risk ratings or vaccination intentions. The participants’ vaccine-related perceptions and intentions did not differ between the two text types. Elaborating on the vaccine’s mechanism of protection, in addition to presenting the benefit-risk profile of a vaccine, can lead people to perceive the vaccine effectiveness as slightly higher, yet it is insufficient to increase vaccination intentions.

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Published

23.04.2024

How to Cite

Felgendreff, L., Rebitschek, F. G., Geiger, M., Shamsrizi, P., Jenny, M. A., & Betsch, C. (2024). Explaining the Mechanism Behind mRNA Vaccines Influences Perceived Vaccine Effectiveness but not Vaccination Intentions: A Randomized Experiment. European Journal of Health Communication, 5(1), 21–45. https://doi.org/10.47368/ejhc.2024.102

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Section

Original Research Paper