What’s driving vaccine denial?

A Polish study found that most vaccine deniers offer only a vague reasoning for avoiding the shots.

Many people ambiguous toward or openly hostile toward vaccinations have a generalized negative attitude toward the disease-preventing shots that often cannot be explained except in vague terms.

According to a news release describing the findings of a study performed by The Polish Association of Social Psychology, vaccine deniers are led mostly by a generalized negative attitude toward vaccines.

The study used data from 492 participants who self-identified as ambiguous toward or opposing vaccination whose arguments against vaccination were collected during a conference. The researchers found it curious that, while many vaccine opponents often reported their stand was founded in their own or observed negative experiences, they remained vague when explaining their reasoning.

Many respondents reported they did not remember the sources of their information while others attributed autism, allergies, or children getting sick to vaccines, despite any evidence of correlation. The researchers believe this could be explained by people’s tendency to remember negative reports, according to the release.

“Confirmation bias consists of an individual actively seeking information consistent with their pre-existing hypothesis, and avoiding information indicative of alternative explanations,” the researchers say in the release. “Therefore, a pre-existing negative attitude toward vaccines may cause individuals to interpret negative symptoms as consequences of vaccines, further reinforcing the negative attitude.”

According to the study, deniers believe vaccines lead to serious negative side effects, won’t protect the individual or society against disease, and have not been sufficiently tested before introduction. They believe that antivaccination leaders are more informed than physicians and that the former group is the only one acting in the public interest.

Sadly, the researchers conclude that the existing evidence is not positive about the ability to change the minds of those opposed to vaccines and that attention should be focused on those who are ambiguous about vaccines to assuage their concerns about negative side effects, according to the release.

A worrying trend

The topic of vaccine hesitancy has taken on new life in recent weeks as the Delta variant of the coronavirus which causes COVID-19 has led to a sharp uptick in infections while vaccination efforts stall.

In July a study from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) found that about 25 percent of unvaccinated people age 18 to 25 say they “probably will not” or “definitely will not” get the COVID-19 vaccination despite the cohort being more likely than other age groups to transmit the disease. This jeopardizes the health of older unvaccinated adults and facilitates the rise of virus variants.

The study gathered March 2021 survey responses from 5,082 and found that 83 percent of respondents said they were unvaccinated. A further 10 percent say they definitely will not get the vaccine and 14 percent say they probably won’t.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows that very few 18 to 29-year-olds die of COVID-19 compared to older cohorts, but the age group accounts for more than 20 percent of the total COVID-19 cases to date and as many as one-in-three young adults are at risk of a severe case of the disease.

More than half of the respondents who said they were likely or definitely not getting vaccinated said they were concerned about possible side effects, while half said they planned to wait and see if the vaccine was safe and may receive it later, and a third said they don’t trust the vaccine.