| Erfurt Laboratory for Empirical Research, Institute for Planetary Health Behaviour, Philosophische Fakultät, Seminar für Medien- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, SPF Bildung. Schule. Verhalten., SPF Wissen. Räume. Medien., Forschung

European scientists call on policymakers to take immediate action against vaccination fatigue

During the pandemic, not only was vaccination against COVID-19 much discussed - worldwide, the consequences of the pandemic also caused vaccinations against childhood diseases to decline. Data from the Erfurt COSMO survey also show: Compared to before the pandemic, more people have critical questions about vaccination in general, and the trust built up over the last decade has declined. Now European scientists, including colleagues from the University of Erfurt and the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, are calling on politicians to take immediate action against vaccination fatigue.

In many countries, booster vaccination against Corona is rather slow. In Germany, three vaccinations are recommended for all adults, and an additional, fourth vaccination is recommended for persons over 60 years of age or at increased risk. Currently, less than 40% of Germans over age 60 have followed this recommendation. The challenges do not lie in the availability of the vaccine - rather, a lack of confidence in the safety of vaccinations is an important point for refusal; one's own experiences with the vaccination or the disease can also lead to a rather low need to protect oneself.

Scientists from five projects funded by the European Union on the subject of vaccination fatigue are now sounding the alarm and have formulated urgent recommendations to politicians in an article published in Nature Communications to counter vaccination fatigue with scientifically based measures. This is very important in Germany, as recent data from the Erfurt COVID-19 Snapshot Monitoring COSMO show that Germans currently have more questions and less confidence in vaccination than before the pandemic, explains Professor Cornelia Betsch of the University of Erfurt, who led this joint effort. This applies not only to vaccination against Corona, but to the topic of vaccination in general.

First, the scientists recommend optimizing the health care system - for which insights from the behavioral sciences are helpful. For example, reminder systems or a digital vaccination register could improve the vaccination rate, because people can be better and more easily reached by the recommendations of doctors. Second, data should be used to reach vulnerable people and groups that are less likely to use health services. Third, health workers should be supported in having competent conversations about vaccination and in debunking misinformation. Fourth, it is important for public health officials to be in constant communication with the media to help them communicate the complex issues simply and accurately.

The researchers also provide helpful resources for putting these recommendations into practice: They list various websites, guidelines, methods and collections of information. What makes them special is their scientific foundation. For example, there are materials that can help medical staff talk about vaccination. Doctors are the most important people when it comes to vaccination education - but they also need support to stay up to date with the latest research and to convey the important information in an understandable way, even in difficult conversational situations, the scientists said.

"We call on policymakers to use existing knowledge to improve the vaccination system - for example, through digitized vaccination records and invitations and further education for medical staff on how to deal with misinformation or myths," Cornelia Betsch emphasizes. "Behavioral science has delivered - much is known about how to increase vaccination readiness." This, she says, must now be implemented to rebuild trust and answer the questions that have arisen around vaccination.

Link to full article: Betsch, C., Schmid, P., Verger, P. et al. A call for immediate action to increase COVID-19 vaccination uptake to prepare for the third pandemic winter. Nat Commun 13, 7511 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-34995-y

A German-language overview of resources can be found at the following website: https://projekte.uni-erfurt.de/cosmo2020/web/ressources/

Findings on confidence in vaccination in general can be found on the Covid19 Snapshot Monitoring (COSMO) website: Results, Wave 70, NOV/DEC 2022: https://projekte.uni-erfurt.de/cosmo2020/web/summary/70


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