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Understanding Vaccine Hesitancy

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Ann Christiano. Photo courtesy of the University of Florida.

The latest surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the highly infectious Delta Variant of the virus, has been called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” 

Epidemiologists and leaders in healthcare and government have been working to try and understand- and overcome- vaccine hesitancy. 

Ann Christiano, director of the Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida College of Journalism joins Intersection to explain her research into why people choose not to get a COVID vaccine, and how to change their minds. 

Along with the center’s research director Annie Neimand, and post doctoral research associate Jack Barry, Christiano has just published a new project: Invest in Trust: A Guide for Building COVID-19 Vaccine Trust and Increasing Vaccination Rates Among CNAs

The project is one of three research projects on vaccine hesitancy the center has produced over the course of the pandemic. 

“One of the things that we recognized very early in this project was that encouraging people to make the choice to get vaccinated is fundamentally about trust, not just trust in the vaccines, but trust in those who are asking us to get it or requiring now, increasingly, us to get it,” says Christiano. 

She says some of the barriers to vaccination are logistical. 

“I think it really starts with number one, making sure that people have very easy access to the vaccine that they are getting paid time off; that they’re getting vouchers for transportation or childcare, recognizing that a lot of the people who haven’t yet chosen to become vaccinated are facing a lot of really big challenges in life.”

Christiano says the key to getting buy-in for vaccinations is to listen to people’s concerns about the vaccine and acknowledge the reasons why they may be afraid or reluctant to get a shot. 

“And then really, you know, coming back to them with your own personal experience, because our behaviors are very deeply informed, and influenced by our perceptions of what people like us are doing.” 

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