Framing Effects on Willingness and Perceptions towards COVID-19 Vaccination among University Students in Italy: An Exploratory Study
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Vaccine hesitancy is a diffused psychological phenomenon that has been increasingly addressed in several studies since the COVID-19 pandemic. Communication campaigns play a pivotal role influencing recipients’ perceptions and may affect the likelihood to vaccinate or to show hesitancy. In the context of communicating risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, we hypothesized that highlighting different aspects of data on the effectiveness of vaccines would influence people’s willingness and attitudes to vaccinate. In this exploratory study, we administered two versions of a survey to a convenience sample of students from three universities in Italy. In the first version, salience was placed on the effectiveness of the vaccine in terms of reducing the probability of infection. In the second version, salience was placed on the effectiveness of the vaccine in terms of reducing the probability of hospitalization after being infected by COVID-19. The results confirmed our hypothesis: participants reported that they were more willing to become vaccinated when exposed to the hospitalization frame (main dimension). Conversely, we found mixed effects of the frame on the following sub-dimensions: reliability, trust, protection, safety, and confidence. Taken together, we show that it is possible to influence, to some extent, university students’ attitudes and perceptions toward COVID-19 vaccination by acting on how information is framed. We discuss the implications of these findings for the development of behaviorally informed policies.