Are scientists and medical experts the most suitable figures to convince the general public to get vaccinated? Research from PERITIA and others has shown that they are among the most trusted professionals, but do people trust them enough to effectively change their behaviour and overcome their vaccine hesitancy?
In their recently published article Countering Vaccine Hesitancy through Medical Expert Endorsement, PERITIA researchers Piero Ronzani, Folco Panizza, Carlo Martini, Lucia Savadori and Matteo Motterlini tried to find an answer to this extremely relevant question for our health and wellbeing.
The interdisciplinary group of researchers analysed the results of a pre-registered experiment with a sample of 2,277 people in Italy through a longitudinal study along the salient phases of the national vaccination campaign. Participants in the experiment received a series of messages endorsed by either medical researchers (experimental group) or by generic others (control).
Despite not finding a significant increase in vaccination, they found that participants in the experimental group displayed higher intention to vaccinate, as well as more positive beliefs about the protectiveness of vaccines. They also found that the more debunking messages people received, the greater their intention to get vaccinated increased.
This leads them to the conclusion that multiple and continuous exposure to information endorsed by medical experts can increase its effectiveness. Interestingly, this effect is independent from people’s general level of trust toward science. “Our results suggest that scientist and medical experts are not simply a generally trustworthy category but also a well suited messenger in contrasting disinformation during vaccination campaigns”, the authors conclude.
The journal article has been published in the scientific journal Vaccine and can be openly accessed here.