Important informations

Appealing to altruism to encourage wide-spread COVID-19 vaccination

Reluctance to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is a significant obstacle to bringing the pandemic under control. Failing to vaccinate enough people to achieve herd immunity – the point at which the virus is unable to find enough hosts to spread, roughly between 70% and 80% of the population – will compound the current crisis. Dr. Zeev Rosberger, Associate Professor at McGill University and Senior Investigator with the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital, and his colleagues, Drs. Samara Perez and Ovidiu Tatar, have received a grant from the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4) to study whether eliciting and encouraging altruistic behaviour can have a significant impact on encouraging vaccination in the 20-to-39-year old age group.

“Simply trying to correct misinformation with fact has not proven effective in changing intentions to accept vaccines,” points out Dr. Rosberger. “We intend to test the considerably less researched approach of eliciting prosocial behavior (altruism), i.e., the desire to help others without expecting personal benefit.”

Because younger adults generally experience less severe disease, many conclude that COVID-19 may not be a danger to themselves. However, as potentially asymptomatic carriers, they are prone to be unknowing spreaders. Thus, it is essential that they be vaccinated in large numbers to protect more vulnerable populations and to arrest widespread infection. That nearly 45% of younger adults Canadians may not be willing to accept a COVID-19 vaccine is a grave concern.

Dr. Rosberger’s team will develop a brief video to promote the vaccine’s effectiveness in protecting others (altruism) as a means of increasing younger adults’ willingness to be vaccinated. More than 2,200 younger adults will be recruited to complete a short online survey before and after viewing the video. The team is partnering with key agencies, including the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), and the Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec (INSPQ) to help communicate its findings within six months and provide real and actionable insight that can improve Canada’s vaccination program this year and help bring an end to the pandemic.

MI4 grants are supported by the fundraising efforts of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Foundation, McGill University Advancement and the Jewish General Hospital Foundation.