Tippie professor adapts business model to understand vaccine reluctance

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Richard Peter and his colleague have conducted research to help public health officials better understand the reluctance to face the COVID-19 vaccine and tailor messages to deal with it.

Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Associate Professor of Finance Ricard Peter stands in front of the Tippie College of Business near the Pappajohn Business Building on September 10, 2021.


A professor at the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business adapted an economic decision-making model to better understand the reluctance to face the COVID-19 vaccine.

UI Associate Professor Richard Peter and his co-author Professor Christophe Courbage of the Geneva School of Business Administration modified the business model to incorporate factors related to reluctance to the vaccination process against COVID-19.

Peter said that people’s uncertainty stems from the efficacy and potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, discouraging vaccination.

He added that while some people will trust the science behind the vaccine and sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for answers, others still question his messages.

Other factors considered by the research included the likelihood of an individual contracting COVID-19 and how affected someone could be if they did get it, Peter said. In these cases, he added, reluctance to vaccinate can both encourage or discourage people from getting the vaccine.

Peter said that different types of uncertainty can have different significance at the individual level. While the uncertainty surrounding the vaccine reduces uptake for all groups, the sources of uncertainty associated with COVID-19 can go either way, he said.

“[Some people] might say, ‘Given this uncertainty, maybe it’s best that I get shot,’ ”said Peter. “But our model also shows that for other types of people it can be different. They might be like, ‘Well, if it’s so uncertain, maybe we’re all going to have it anyway, so what’s the point?’ “

Peter added that this study aims to elucidate the underlying and root causes of an individual’s reluctance to vaccinate.

“I always find it hard to accept that people are just stubborn and don’t think of everything,” said Peter. “Everyone processes information and thinks about things, they think about it in their own way. “

Instead of speculating about people’s lack of cooperation or their desire to listen to authority, Peter said academics and scientists should aim to consider individual thought processes to help people.

Tom Snee, associate editor of University News Services at Tippie College of Business, said the model is a framework for epidemiologists to study the effects of vaccine reluctance, and Peter produced no data l ‘using.

“I wanted to stress that Richard only developed the model,” Snee wrote in an email to the Daily Iowan. “He didn’t use it – it’s for epidemiologists and the like filling out the data.”

Natoshia Askelson, associate professor in the department of community and behavioral health at the UI College of Public Health, said she has worked on several campaigns to increase COVID-19 immunizations across Iowa, including a funded campaign by the CDC targeting mid-sized communities in Iowa.

She compares Peter’s research to the extended parallel process model, developed by researcher Kim Witte at the University of Kentucky in the 1990s.

Part of Witte’s research explains that individuals make decisions based on perceived threats and effectiveness. Askelson said that, in this case, the threat is a person’s perception of the severity and susceptibility to the disease, while effectiveness is the belief that the vaccine is effective and available.

There have been many mixed messages about the likelihood of people contracting COVID-19 and its true severity, Askelson said.

“We have had leaders who say this is a hoax,” she said. “We’ve had people say it’s not that bad, it’s like a cold… It’s really the battle from the start. [COVID-19] is different from cancer, where it’s really hard to convince people that cancer is a good thing or made up.


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