Health and Science   Social Change  

This Untapped Tool Could Help Boost Vaccination Rates

This article originally appeared in Barron’s on Jan. 27, 2022. To read the full article, visit: 

The recent failure of workplace vaccine mandates in the Supreme Court means we have to look for fresh ideas to get the last third of Americans vaccinated. Here’s a tool no one has tried: activating the millions of Americans who are vaccinated to influence the choices of those who aren’t.

In his news conferences and other public appearances, President Biden and other public health officials have appealed directly to unvaccinated Americans with anger, fear and shame. It hasn’t worked.

It’s time for our government and public health officials to focus instead on people who have already taken the vaccine. We should thank them for keeping themselves and the people around them safe. And then ask them to talk to the people they love about getting vaccinated.


People who aren’t vaccinated don’t trust Biden, Anthony Fauci, or the CDC for information about Covid-19. They are unlikely to be listening or to see any prominent public health authorities as a trusted messenger if they are. However, they do trust their friends and loved ones for this kind of information. Biden’s approval ratings are higher among people who are vaccinated, so they are more likely to tune in and accept this call to action. Approach matters as well. Unpleasant emotions like anger, fear and shame tend to make people tune out, but pleasant emotions like pride and hope are associated with agency and action.

Authors: Ann Searight Christiano, director of the Center for Public Interest Communications in the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, and  Jack J. Barry , postdoctoral research associate in the Center.

Posted: January 28, 2022
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