Moral values explain differences in COVID-19 vaccination rates between US counties > News > USC Dornsife
Research from USC Dornsife shows that moral values predict regional differences in COVID-19 vaccination rates beyond structural, demographic, and political barriers to vaccination.
Vaccination rates vary widely in the United States A new study by researchers at USC Dornsife sheds light on the beliefs behind these substantial disparities. (Image source: iStock.)
Even though COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and widely available in the United States, many Americans are still hesitant to get vaccinated. Indeed, there are stark disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates across the United States: in some counties, nearly all residents are vaccinated while, in other counties, only a minority of residents are vaccinated.
A new study by USC researchers sheds light on the beliefs underlying these disparities in vaccination rates.
The study, published Wednesday in american psychologistfound that beyond structural barriers, such as access to health care and political barriers, we must consider Americans’ moral values to understand stark disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates.
“The goal of our research was to understand how regional differences can help us explain differences in vaccination rates beyond structural barriers, and that is indeed what we found,” said Nils Karl Reimer, study co-author and postdoctoral researcher at USC Dornsife College. of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “Moral values help explain these differences, beyond the well-known variables of political ideology and structural barriers.”
Key Factors Determining Vaccine Acceptance: Fairness, Fairness, and Purity
The study is based on the theory of moral foundations, according to which there are five basic moral foundations: care, fairness, loyalty, authority and purity.
The researchers’ analysis found that moral concerns about fairness, loyalty and purity influenced county-level vaccination rates, but not care or authority.
“We found that certain values traditionally associated with conservatism were associated with lower vaccination rates, the most important of which was a desire for bodily and spiritual purity,” Reimer said.
On the other hand, counties with higher loyalty were 1.14 times more likely to have higher vaccination rates.
Emphasis on equity was associated with a 2% increase in vaccination rates under similar conditions.
Anti-vaccination linked to higher valuation of purity, regardless of political party
The researchers said that while their hypotheses were largely confirmed by the study, some surprising trends emerged. The authors noted that loyalty is generally associated with conservative values, which in turn are associated with vaccine skepticism. However, the study found that loyalty is associated with higher vaccination rates – but only by controlling for the other four moral foundations.
“The fidelity finding is quite surprising as there is a lot of anti-vaxxer rhetoric among conservatives. However, what we show is that typical conservatives do not tend to be anti-vaxxers “, said co-author Morteza Dehghani, associate professor of psychology and computer science at USC Dornsife. “Anti-vaxxers tend not to be very loyal, but very pure. who lack loyalty, as well as liberals who tend to prioritize purity issues, most likely focusing on the bodily aspects of purity contamination (“My body is a temple and it should not be contaminated” )”.
“It’s a sentiment you could find on both sides of the aisle,” Reimer added, “and I think that’s the great value of our approach because it gives a finer analysis.”
Findings could improve communication to improve vaccination rates
The findings present policy makers and public health communicators with data to better reframe their public health communications related to the pandemic. The researchers suggest appealing to loyalty concerns by defining vaccination as a patriotic duty. In regions of high purity, they suggest emphasizing the vaccine’s ability to protect against contaminating diseases.
“These things are, mostly, just speculation ahead of new experiments,” Reimer said, “but our findings could point to public health messages that could be tested.”
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