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Mandates Likely Work to Increase Vaccine Uptake

Rather than causing a backlash, vaccination requirements will succeed at getting more people inoculated, according to research from PIK Professor Dolores Albarracín, the Alexandra Heyman Nash Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor with appointments in the Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Nursing, and fellow colleagues at Penn.

Though almost 190 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, that’s less than 60% of the country’s population. To increase that number, the federal government set in motion requirements that businesses with 100-plus employees mandate the vaccine.

Some headlines decried such a move, saying it would hamper, not help the effort. But new research from a University of Pennsylvania team shows that such fears are unfounded. Rather than causing a backlash, the mandates strengthen vaccination intentions, results the researchers published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Our experiments show very clearly that these requirements do not have any negative effects on vaccination intentions,” says Albarracín. “And, actually, they have positive effects across various ethnic groups and for people who have a tendency to oppose anything seemingly forced on them,” what’s known as psychological reactance, she says.

Albarracín, a social psychologist who also directs the Science of Science Communication Division at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, is particularly interested in the psychological impact of science-relevant policies.

The research, from Albarracín and colleagues Andy Tan and Jessica Fishman, postdoc Haesung Jung, and data analyst Wen Song, started with two questions: Is mandating a COVID-19 shot likely to promote vaccine uptake or increase resistance to it? How would such a requirement compare to allowing people to freely choose the vaccine?

This is an excerpt from a longer news release that originally appeared in Penn Today. It was written by Michele Berger, senior science news officer in University Communications.