Why do some people refuse to get vaccinated or wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19? The biggest driver of that decision is a belief that the virus poses no threat to them, a new international study suggests.
The researchers said their findings could help guide efforts to fight future pandemics.
The investigators examined responses from more than 200,000 people in 51 countries who took part in an online survey that included questions about how serious it would be to contract COVID-19 and their willingness to get vaccinated and follow social distancing measures.
The analysis showed the people who felt more invincible were less willing to get vaccinated and less likely to think it was important to take individual action to reduce transmission.
The strength of this association varied between countries. Among people who didn't think they were at risk from COVID-19, those in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and other countries with a greater emphasis on individual freedoms and autonomy were less willing to get vaccinated and follow preventive measures than those in countries with a greater emphasis on collective action.
The study was published Oct. 27 in the journal PLOS ONE.
"While feeling invincible may be beneficial in overcoming economic hardships or during periods of war, the results of our study suggest that it threatens the likelihood that people get vaccinated against COVID-19, and this is especially the case in individualistic countries, such as the USA, where people tend to focus on their own health rather than the collective health of their community," author James Leonhardt, from the University of Nevada, and colleagues said in a journal news release.
They added that their findings show the importance of considering both individual and cultural factors when dealing with pandemics, and the need for messaging that emphasizes the importance of collective action, particularly in individualistic cultures.
The effects of cultural factors of health beliefs and behaviors might be areas for future research, they suggested.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on protecting yourself and others from COVID-19.
SOURCE: PLOS ONE, news release, Oct. 27, 2021