Written by Nancy Lee, as part of her Social Marketing Sightings theme.

For years, scientists and doctors have treated vaccine skepticism as a knowledge problem. If patients were hesitant to get vaccinated, the thinking went, they simply needed more information.

But as public health officials now work to convince Americans to get COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible, new social science research suggests that a set of deeply held beliefs is at the heart of many people’s resistance, complicating efforts to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

About one-third of U.S. adults are still resisting vaccines. Polling shows that Republicans make up a substantial part of that group. Given how deeply the country is divided by politics, it is perhaps not surprising that they have dug in, particularly with a Democrat in the White House. But political polarization is only part of the story.

The moral preference for liberty and individual rights that the social psychologists found to be common among skeptics has been strengthened by the country’s deepening political polarization.

My thoughts on Implications for Social Marketers:

  • Messengers should be respected, well known, people who share their beliefs/profile, but who decided to get the vaccine.