Dialogue between patients and healthcare professionals can be a good way to answer questions and clear up misconceptions for vaccine-hesitant patients. In this dialogue, it can be helpful to understand the underlying reason why a patient might be reluctant to get a vaccine. We call this underlying reason the ‘attitude root’. Attitude roots refer to deep psychological factors, such as a person’s level of trust or distrust, that shape and constrain people’s beliefs and attitudes.
This tool explains some of the most common attitude roots and how they may show up as arguments expressed by a vaccine-hesitant patient. It also identifies some of the most common themes related to each attitude root, so that we can address them.
Understanding the attitude roots of hesitancy also helps us guide our empathy with a patient. Empathy is an important component of communication, and one way in which we can show empathy is by affirming the reasons for a patient’s concerns. For example, we can acknowledge that there have been cases in which governments have shown themselves to be untrustworthy. This tool gives some examples of affirmations for each attitude root. We can use those examples to understand and empathise with how the patient is feeling about vaccination.
Finally, the tool provides refutations for common arguments and misconceptions that a patient may have. These refutations take into account the likely attitude root and try to correct misconceptions while still affirming the patient’s psychological predispositions.
Political leanings are a known driver of people’s attitudes towards scientific findings that are politically charged, and vaccination has become politicised in many countries.
A large body of research has established that across the globe, people with right-wing political views are presently more likely to reject scientific findings than people on the left. In the case of vaccinations, the association tends to be small and finds expression in different ways.
Vaccine opposition in European countries including the UK is related to nationalism, right-wing populism, and individualistic and hierarchical worldviews. Politically-motivated opposition to vaccinations can become particularly acute in the case of mandates.