The fear of vaccination among Slovaks outweighs solidarity with the most vulnerable groups
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Slovakia is one of the EU countries with the lowest vaccination rates against COVID-19. At the same time, almost half of the population is not interested in vaccination. The results of the latest study of a team of scientists from the Institute of Experimental Psychology of the Centre of Social and Psychological Sciences SAS (CSPV SAV) suggest that the reason for the low vaccination of Slovaks is their increased fear of the vaccine and helplessness in assessing its safety. These feelings even outweigh the willingness to solidary protect other people around.
Vaccination - not only against COVID-19 - is one of the most important benefits of modern science, but its effectiveness depends on the number of people vaccinated in the population.
"Since vaccination protects not only the vaccinated person but also other people, it can be said that it is a form of social agreement and a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable," says Magdalena Adamus from the Institute of Experimental Psychology CSPV SAV. Together with colleagues Vladimíra Čavojová and Eva Ballová Mikušková, they decided, after Slovakia was hit hard by the second wave of the pandemic, to examine the reasons for the high level of scepticism of the Slovak population towards COVID-19 vaccines.
"Our most important finding is that the fear of the vaccine and its side effects outweighs not only the fear of the disease itself but also the altruistic tendencies one can have," explains the psychologist, adding: "Although the people in our sample showed a high degree of altruism and a sincere interest in other people and their health, their vaccination attitudes were more influenced by emotional reactions to vaccine side effects and a lack of ability to evaluate the safety and efficacy of vaccines."
Research results suggest that vaccination campaigns based on solidarity with others can only be effective if people have sufficient and reliable information and consider the risks associated with vaccination to be low. Otherwise, emotions, especially fear, come to the forefront.
"We cannot expect that people who do not have a relevant education will be able to evaluate scientific articles or clinical studies. If we want to increase people's willingness to be vaccinated, we must reduce their fear and helplessness. Mainly by eliminating false messages and alarm hoaxes. There is no other way than the clear provision of knowledge through several information channels, which can reach the widest possible range of people,” concludes the scientist.
You can find out more about the results of the study on the ÚEP CSPV SAV blog.