The psychological mechanisms underlying fears about anticovid vaccines

Not infrequently, in alert situations, our neurobiological system leads us to evaluate information in the wrong way, that is, giving more weight to negative and discouraging ones. In addition, the unfamiliarity with research, tests, laboratories, components used to formulate the drug, procedures to confirm its effectiveness helps to decrease the level of confidence with the vaccine.

Potentially, when given a vaccine, many people see nothing but a liquid of unknown content being injected into their body. Sometimes people have a sense of low personal gain from the vaccine and are led to wonder if it is really worth getting the vaccine, if it is really effective, if it really protects against disease, or if it risks creating more side effects than benefits.

All this fits into a social context of profound mistrust in public authorities: this makes it more difficult to create an authoritative and reliable leadership opinion, taking into account that in recent months we have been bombarded with avalanches of information, presented as “absolute truths” that however, they often contradicted each other. In light of this, the widespread distrust is now somewhat understandable.

It is on the basis of these fears that no-vax activists around the world, particularly in Italy, leverage to push people to fear vaccines, becoming increasingly incisive with the dissemination of information through the internet. In fact, the communication strategies used by no-vax are well defined, almost scientific, precisely to feed anxiety and distrust reactions in people. These are methods that manipulate our emotional brain, which underlie the misinformation we talked about earlier.

What to do then? How to rebuild trust in “who knows more than us”? There are two pillars on which to act: on the one hand, the study and understanding of the psychological characteristics associated with hesitation and resistance to vaccination; on the other hand, the consideration of emotions when communicating and promoting the efficacy of the vaccine. Therefore, in such a context, the priority must be to rebuild trust between medical professionals, scientists, researchers and public health authorities: the complexity of the scenario requires that the latter accept a position of vulnerability, relying on the competence of the former. Trust, however, cannot arise from a “prescription” dropped from above, it is necessary to start by listening to doubts and fears, in a journey side by side expert-non-expert aimed at providing tools for critical thinking.

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Francesca Colomba




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