I’m Not Anti-Vaxx, I Just Won’t Vaccinate

By: Mo Senne

In any given scenario on a spectrum, it is imperative to isolate what someone will not do from what they impose on others. A simple example I normally give is with abortions: if someone does not personally believe in termination of pregnancy, it does not mean that they will become ardent advocates of pro-life. Similarly, my choice (for as long as it remains mine) to not vaccinate should not translate into a label of “anti-vaxx.” As such, I will inform people about the vaccines available, how to get registered, and what to look out for after vaccinating albeit I have no care in the world for it in my life. Get vaccinated if you want to, but do not recruit me – my activism does not extend that far.

Interestingly, those who are for vaccines advocate for them to a point where they could even wish for ill-health and your demise when you do not cave in, just to prove a point. Funny enough, the same people rejoice when they do not die a few days after taking the vaccine like that was an unwritten risk in the contraindication. As if that is not enough, we are told that we are endangering the lives of people who vaccinated – these are the people who say the vaccine works and that even if they contract it, they will not die. I find myself conflicted when I try to understand the reasoning and the incentives being given to people such that it’s the messaging around this that makes me hesitant more than the underreporting of side-effects. Social Psychology suggests:

“Pressures to conform, and our tendency to surrender to such pressures, can sometimes result in very harmful effects.”

For greater context on the above quote, Robert Cialdini (Social Psychologist) studied what he termed “compliance professionals” – people whose success (financial or otherwise) depends on their ability to get others to say yes, such as politicians. Cialdini highlighted the following techniques often used to gain compliance:

  • Foot-in-the-door Technique: Gaining compliance through a small request and when it is granted, the request escalates to a larger one (the one they actually desired all along);
  • Low-ball Procedure: An offer or deal is changed to make it less attractive to the target person after this person has accepted it;
  • Door-in-the-face Technique: Requesters begin with a large request and, when this is refused, retreat to to a smaller one which they desired all along;
  • That’s-not-all Technique: Additional benefits are offered to target people before they have decided whether to comply with or reject specific requests;
  • Playing Hard to Get: Making the suggestion that a person or object is scarce and hard to obtain in order to increase compliance;
  • Deadline Technique: The target population is told that they only have a limited time to take advantage of some offer or to obtain some item.

Now, in reference to the inconsistent COVID-19 messaging and the techniques used to gain compliance, it is significant to note how they are all designed to induce fear. What the advocates of the vaccine have not considered is research done on the effect of fear appeals. Social Psychologists Janis and Feshbach (1953) found that “when the message is sufficiently fear-arousing that people feel genuinely threatened, they are likely to argue against the threat, or else dismiss its applicability to themselves.” Furthermore, a meta-analysis of studies examining the role of fear in persuasion finds that they are generally not effective at changing people’s health-related behaviours (de Hoog, Stroebe, & de Wit, 2007). So who is actually contributing towards vaccine hesitancy?

In closing, noting that eNCA reported that the��National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will consider an implementation plan for vaccine passports in the next ten days, health messages of various sorts can be more effective if they are framed in a positive manner – positive framing can induce change especially if people do not perceive themselves as especially being at risk. Basically, if your go-to phrase is “you are going to die” when someone does not want to vaccinate, they can easily say “we are all going to die” and that will be the end of that.

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