Experts tap into behavioral research to promote COVID-19 vaccination in the US

January 07, 2021

As the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out, it is still unclear whether enough Americans are willing to be vaccinated to allow the nation to return to normalcy. Many believe a key part of the equation lies in how effective vaccine communication teams are at convincing the public to get vaccinated. And the key to effective communication tactics in promoting the vaccines may lie in demonstrated behavioral economics and consumer behavior theory, experts say.

"The country has made an incredible investment in fast-tracking SARS-CoV-2 vaccines from conception to market, which would make it even more tragic if we fail to curtail the virus simply because Americans are hesitant to be vaccinated," says Stacy Wood, an expert on how consumers respond to change and innovation, and first author of a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Beyond Politics - Promoting COVID-19 Vaccination in the U.S." Wood is a professor of marketing and executive director of the Consumer Innovation Collaborative at the NC State Poole College of Management

Recent surveys indicate that the proportion of the U.S. population willing to be vaccinated has fluctuated in recent months - from a high of 72 percent in May, to 51 percent in September and increasing slightly to 60 percent in November. Of those respondents who indicated that they probably or definitely would not get the vaccine, less than half said they might be open to vaccination once others start getting it and more information becomes available.

Since Anthony Fauci has said that at least 80% of the population will need to be vaccinated to get the country back to normalcy, Wood notes that this means it will be necessary to get 100% follow-through from those who are more likely to get the vaccine and 100% conversion of those who are unlikely now but willing to keep an open mind. That's a daunting prospect.

To address this challenge, Wood and her colleague Kevin Schulman of Stanford drew on their expertise in behavioral economics and consumer research to develop 12 strategies that could, collectively, create an effective vaccine-promotion effort.

Proposed strategies include:
-end-
For the full list of strategies, see the paper - which is published open access in the New England Journal of Medicine. The paper was authored by Stacy Wood, Langdon Distinguished University Professor of Marketing in NC State's Poole College of Management, and Kevin Schulman, professor of medicine and, by courtesy, of economics, at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

North Carolina State University

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