| Erfurt Laboratory for Empirical Research, Faculty of Philosophy, Education, School, and Behaviour, Research

COSMO: New long-term study on vaccination behaviour started

Since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, a research team led by psychologist Professor Cornelia Betsch at the University of Erfurt has been dedicated to the topic of "Understanding and Changing Infection Protection Behaviour". The "Covid-19-Snapshot Monitoring" (COSMO) has quickly become the reference study when it comes to questions such as how people perceive various aspects of the crisis or accept the measures to combat Corona. As part of this research, the team has now started a long-term study together with the University of Vienna on the experience and behaviour of vaccinated and unvaccinated people in Germany and Austria. The results of the first survey are now available.

The background to the new study is that current data from the COSMO survey (wave 59) show that about eleven percent of the respondents are unvaccinated and most want to remain so. In order to understand more precisely what discourages people from vaccinating and how they feel about a general vaccination requirement, the experience and behaviour of vaccinated and unvaccinated people is now being examined in more detail. With the COSMO-PANEL, a corresponding long-term study has now been set up in Germany and Austria - both countries are considering the introduction of general compulsory vaccination against COVID-19.

In the first survey in Germany between 15 and 27 December 2021, a total of 3242 people were interviewed. 2008 of them had been vaccinated against COVID-19 at least once, 1234 had not been vaccinated. Three more surveys will follow. This is not a representative study for age or gender, the only characteristic according to which the respondents were selected was vaccination status.

Commenting on the results, Prof. Dr. Cornelia Betsch explains: "From the data, it is clear to us that the rejection of vaccination is mainly due to fear and a lack of confidence in its safety. We interpret this as a 'hot' rejection, i.e. not a 'cool', fact-based decision, but an emotional decision based on fear, worry and distrust. The data also show that the just discussed compulsory vaccination also triggers strong feelings of anger and a great desire to circumvent the duty among those affected. The majority of the unvaccinated will therefore probably seek ways to avoid compulsory vaccination. The design of the compulsory vaccination does not matter to them: those who are unvaccinated reject compulsory vaccination, no matter what it looks like."

In view of these findings, the scientists recommend doing everything possible to reduce the fear of vaccination. With or without compulsory vaccination, this is an imperative of good education, says Betsch. To this end, medical staff should be especially informed and trained. Doctors and nurses should also receive support when it comes to refuting misinformation. The COSMO team recommends that special attention should be paid to this. The personal conversation is of particular importance.

"If we want to 'take along' doubters or vaccination sceptics, we have to justify the planned compulsory vaccination scientifically," says Cornelia Betsch. "And we also have to explain its benefits for the individual, society but also the economy more strongly." Respectful and factual communication is imperative, especially for people who are particularly in the public eye. The trust of the unvaccinated in the federal government is already so low that it can hardly be gambled away. Therefore, measures to combat the pandemic should primarily be aimed at maintaining and ideally strengthening the trust of the majority of those who have been vaccinated. And: "Considerations on the enforcement of compulsory vaccination will always have to take into account that there is a large proportion of people among the unvaccinated who want to circumvent the obligation."

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