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Podcast: Vaccine Apathy

NC State Audio Abstract
Audio Abstract
Podcast: Vaccine Apathy

We hear a lot about vaccine hesitancy, but there’s another reason why vaccination levels may not be quite where we’d like them to be. And that’s vaccine apathy. Stacy Wood, the Langdon Distinguished University Professor of Marketing at NC State’s Poole College of Management, explains the difference and how to reach the apathetic.

Vaccine apathy differs from hesitancy in that for this group the decision isn’t about whether or not they feel the vaccine is safe – the decision isn’t even on the radar.

Wood explains that there are certain psychographics – groups of people defined by interests, attitudes, or lifestyles rather than just demographic differences like income, age or race – that may tend more toward vaccine apathy.

These might be people who feel very healthy, very strong, think that it’s unlikely that they’re going to get sick because they live in a low density area. They just don’t feel as at risk. Or another psychographic that we might be running into are people who have distrust or experience with systemic racism in health care.

According to Wood, the majority of the messaging out there is aimed at convincing the vaccine hesitant to get the vaccine. And those messages aren’t compelling to the apathetic.

“The hesitant person is thinking a lot, should I, or shouldn’t I?” Wood says. “And the vaccine apathetic person has just taken this off their to-do list. It’s not even in that mental consideration set of, should I do this or not?”

So what works when you want to reach the vaccine apathetic?

But for people who aren’t really hesitant, it’s just not top priority. For those people, it’s about making it very convenient and having some immediate personal gains from getting the vaccine.

“The thing we need to do is we need to make it super convenient, like socks at the cash register at Target,” Wood says. “So there need to be pop-up clinics. It’s got to be somewhere where people already are, at the airport, just somewhere where you are waiting and you’re like, you know what? I guess I should get my vaccine. It wasn’t top priority for me, but I am here now. And I’ve got a moment and there they are.

“The second thing is to give people messaging that isn’t necessarily that top, most expert endorser, but people who particular groups will pay attention to, people who grab your attention, people who are likable, who create positive emotion. For the vaccine apathetic, the stuff that grabs your attention is stuff that’s happening right now to you.”