Fearing the Disease or the Vaccine: The Case of COVID-19

Linda C. Karlsson, Anna Soveri, Stephan Lewandowsky, Linnea Karlsson, Hasse Karlsson, Saara Nolvi, Max Karukivi, Mikael Lindfelt, Jan Antfolk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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As studies indicate that people perceive COVID-19 as a threatening disease, the demand for a vaccine against the disease could be expected to be high. However, vaccine safety concerns might still outweigh the perceived disease risks when an individual decides whether or not to accept the vaccine. We investigated the role of perceived risk of COVID-19 (i.e., perceived likelihood of infection, perceived disease severity, and disease-related worry) and perceived safety of a prospective vaccine against COVID-19 in predicting intentions to accept a COVID-19 vaccine. Three Finnish samples were surveyed: 825 parents of small children, 205 individuals living in an area with suboptimal vaccination coverage, and 1,325 Facebook users nationwide. As points of reference, we compared the perceptions of COVID-19 to those of influenza and measles. COVID-19 was perceived as a threatening disease¬—more so than influenza and measles. The strongest predictor of COVID-19 vaccination intentions was trusting the safety of the potential vaccine. Those perceiving COVID-19 as a severe disease were also slightly more intent on taking a COVID-19 vaccine. If a vaccine against COVID-19 is successfully developed, assuring the public that the vaccine is safe should be the focus for health authorities aiming to achieve a high vaccine uptake.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110590
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date14 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Dec 2020

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Memory


  • COVID-19
  • coronavirus
  • vaccination intentions
  • vaccine hesitancy
  • perceived risk
  • perceived vaccine safety

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