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7 May, 2021

What would you do for your loved ones?

This is the message at the heart of the Behavioural Insights Team’s latest trial to increase vaccine uptake in the US. One in four people report unwillingness to take the Covid-19 vaccine, and hesitancy is more heavily skewed towards communities that have been impacted the most during the pandemic. We have a similar picture in the UK: vaccine hesitancy is highest amongst ethnic minority groups, who are also at higher risk of infection and severe disease.

BIT are best known for advocating for the “nudge theory”, and recently they shared their learnings on its application to increasing vaccine demand. Following initial research, they set up an intervention to test and compare four separate messages: helping loved ones; approved by healthcare workers; getting lives back; and tested by thousands. Although all messages increased vaccine confidence and willingness to be vaccinated, the message of helping loved ones increased demand across all hesitant groups.

Of course, cultural differences, levels of misinformation, and the impact of Covid-19 on different countries (to name only a few) will determine the most effective type of messaging to increasing demand. Other barriers to vaccine uptake also need to be addressed, such as convenience (here’s another great BIT article exploring practical barriers) and complacency as a result of low perception of risk.

The road to full immunisation is still long. And we are so privileged here in the UK to have sufficient supply, that it perhaps increases our responsibility to ensure uptake remains high – while also doubling down on all efforts to ensure equitable access everywhere.

By Jennie Mitchell

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