Why are some reluctant to get vaccinated?

Disinformation, mistrust, polarization: a research chair based at Université Laval will look into the hesitations towards vaccination, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to identify its origins.

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Rector Sophie D’Amours announced Friday morning the creation of the Chair in Applied Public Health on the Anthropology of Vaccination Issues, in collaboration with the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) and the Instituts de recherche en Health Canada (CIHR).

The federal agency will provide $1.1 million to anthropology professor Ève Dubé and her team over five years for this mandate.

The new chair, the first on this subject in the country, will attempt to identify the individual, social, cultural or structural factors that lead people to doubt vaccination, a public health measure whose benefits have been well demonstrated.

Growing distrust

The pandemic has brought to light « an increased polarization, a politicization of certain issues, a growing distrust of recommendations, expertise », according to Ms. Dubé, herself a scientific advisor at the INSPQ, who is interested in these questions. for several years.

She acknowledges that she will need to act tactfully to navigate this sensitive topic.

« Being told ‘you’re not right, you’re silly, you’re anti-science’, it never moved the debate forward and it never changed anyone’s mind, » he says. her, saying her goal is not to « convince » anyone but to « try to understand » people’s concerns with « empathy ».

echo chambers

His work will also focus on disinformation on social networks and the « echo chambers » of algorithms. The specialist raises the “big role” of certain actors who “will commodify” alternatives to the vaccine or intentionally spread false information for their financial gain or popularity.

The responsibility of the scientific community, particularly its ability to communicate well with the public, will also be analyzed. But it will also be necessary to see to a better “scientific literacy” within the population, believes Ms. Dubé.

“Specifically for COVID-19, what we observe in our work is that there is indeed a rise in hesitation, very much linked to the Omicron wave, which is also linked to the way in which we have communicated about vaccines at the start of a pandemic,” she said.

Rector D’Amours praised the professor’s ability to « establish a constructive dialogue », adding that no harassment against her would be tolerated.

For Dr. Gaston De Serres, epidemiologist at the INSPQ, the idea of ​​opening new channels of listening with people who have reservations can only be beneficial.

“We can have tools which in terms of efficiency and safety work well, but if people do not adopt the behavior of going to be vaccinated, obviously, we are not advanced”, he says.

Two lines of research:

1) Understand the expressions, causes and consequences of vaccine hesitancy in the population as well as among health professionals.

2) Develop and evaluate interventions to improve equitable access to services and reduce vaccine hesitancy.

Vaccination against COVID-19 in Quebec:

61%: proportion of the population with a completed basic vaccination (for adults, 3 doses or 2 doses + one infection)

23%: adults who received a dose in the last 5 months

* Sources: Laval University and Health Quebec

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