Researchers warn against vaccination euphoria: Optimism makes you careless

People tend to be careless when faced with good news, one study shows. This does not bode well for the corona vaccinations.

The second entry is still missing in this vaccination certificate. Just one dose is not enough Photo: dpa

STOCKHOLM taz | The expectation of getting vaccinated soon can make people dangerously careless. This is shown by the Swedish research study “Anticipation of COVID-19 Vaccines reduces social distancing”, which the Research Institute of Industrial Economics has now published. The researchers fear that the virus could spread even more quickly.

“Positive information about the effectiveness and accessibility of a vaccine reduces the will to adhere to the recommendations for maintaining social distance and good hygiene routines,” summarizes economics professor Erik Wenström, co-author of the study: “They then believe that life will return to normal more quickly, which seems to reduce their awareness and willingness to follow the recommendations of the authorities. “

Such a reaction is not really surprising, emphasize the scientists. People like to be confident, preferring to look to the future with positive visions rather than worry. Social psychologists call this tendency “optimism bias”.

The crux of the matter is that “such vaccination optimism can lead to poor health behavior”. Politicians and health authorities should be aware of this, recommends the study: When vaccinations begin, no loosening of existing infection control measures is appropriate, but rather “stricter rules are required”.

Researchers wanted to get information quickly

The study was conducted between December 10 and 13, when the first emergency approvals of Biontech / Pfizer’s corona vaccine were received in several countries, an EU approval was announced for the period after Christmas and vaccinations started in the UK. In a survey representative of the population, the participants were presented with different scenarios for the upcoming vaccine development. They were then asked about the behavior they had caused. There were such significant differences between the group of people to whom the most optimistic scenario was presented and a control group that the decision was made to publish the study before a peer-reviewed test procedure and publication in a scientific journal, in order to publicize it and to be able to inform politics about them up to date.

That’s probably not a bad idea, as news from Denmark shows. According to their own statement, staff and residents of an old people’s home in Aarhus were in a “celebratory mood” after they had all been vaccinated on December 29th. Perhaps this party mood was a bit too boisterous, because a week and a half later three people from the nursing staff and six residents tested positive. A 35-year-old nurse even had to seek hospital treatment.

Not over after a prick

Jens Lundgren, professor of infectious diseases at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, emphasizes that the first vaccination sting should not mean that the corona problem is over.

Lundgren also warns against following the British example and extending the period between the first and second vaccine dose to 12 weeks in order to be able to vaccinate as many people as possible at least once, given the limited doses available. He considers such an approach, which is also being discussed in Germany, to be “deeply risky” because, among other things, it increases the risk of vaccine-resistant mutations.


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