Notes: The Psychology of Vaccination (Guy Kawasaki's Remarkable People Podcast)

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I enjoyed this 1 hour 37 minute podcast episode by Guy Kawasaki on his Remarkable People podcast, which featured 9 remarkable guests on how they people can be encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccination, as well as their thoughts on common issues such as anti-vaccers and whether vaccinations ought to be legislated. 

The original podcast episode can be found here.



Dr Bob Cialdini
  • Anti-Vaccers: To convince anti-vaccers to get a vaccine, you must find someone who was like them (i.e. an anti-vaccer) but due to personal development (e.g. their mother got COVID), they have become a convert. Get these former anti-vaccers to share their story of how they changed their stance to other anti-vaccers.
Dr Gretchen Chapman
  • Facts aren’t enough by themselves.
  • Use social influence/norms: Once more people know more people who have been vaccinated, it will facilitate behaviour that makes them more inclined to get vaccinated too
  • Make it easier for people to get vaccinated (including getting the 2nd dose) 
  • Heart-wrenching stories & anecdotes are most effective in getting people to get vaccines, rather than charts & graphs. Positive stories tend to be the most boring; negative stories are more heart wrenching as it gives a clear message, i.e. “Don’t let this happen to you.”
Dr Phil Zimbardo
  • Identify social role models (e.g. celebrities) & get them vaccinated first. However, you can’t just say they were vaccinated; you must show it
  • Use a visible symbol to show that you have been vaccinated, e.g. a V sign
  • Social inclusion: Go around saying, “Join our team to fight this ferocious enemy, COVID-19.”
  • DON’T tell people it’s your obligation or duty to do it. It would be a mistake to pass a law stating that everyone has to be vaccinated 
David Aaker (Godfather of Branding)
  • Those who are hesitant to take vaccines, often just need a role model who has taken the vaccine to convince them to do the same e.g. Biden
  • If you argue against the frame of how taking vaccines constitutes a “loss of personal freedom”, you will be accepting their frame. To change the frame, use stories that have emotion or humour so that they will listen/hear it and share it with others. Share vivid stories about how horrible the disease is, of how they couldn’t be with family members that died and those suffering lifelong side effects (organs failing) etc. 
  • In the event that you’re trying to get vaccinated and stories are used against you (e.g. the nurse who has experienced bad side effects from the vaccine): The last metaphor used is the most powerful. As such, ensure that you’re own story is more visible, better, and more powerful. When you hear the negative stories, respond by saying “Yes, but look at this person who died.” Win by sheer repetition so that the nurse story won’t be the last metaphor & thus the frame that is used. 
Dr Jonah Berger
  •  Don’t TELL people what to do, ASK them. E.g. Would you want your grandparents to be protected & vaccinated? If you do, what about yourself? 
  • On the power of influencers: The most important is WHAT the message is
  • We have a tendency to look for facts that support our world views and ignore the ones that go against them. 
  • Ask, “why hasn’t this person changed?” rather than “what can I do to get him to change?”
Dr Simon Aral
  • We must control and reduce the spread of misinformation & increase the transparent sharing of science & facts.
  • Information is to be spread on both social media and in the media.  
  • We need the same concerted effort to label misinformation the way Facebook/Twitter did for the US election
  • Use the same notion of “I voted” stickers to show that you have vaccinated; seeing your friends, neighbours & celebrities with those stickers might have an effect 
  • Introduce some form of gamification, e.g. giveaway or raffles 
  • Media has a responsibility in providing equal coverage to both the positive (none) and negative side effects, even if it is in their interest to hype up stories on the side effects as they would otherwise have nothing to report
  • Remove hurdles to people getting vaccinated: Paid time off & staying at home to recover, to get vaccines
  • Give clear messaging: The biggest reason people hesitate is due to uncertainty & mixed messaging 
Sam Wineburg
  • People reject vaccines for many different reasons, so show empathy & understand where they’re coming from. 
  • To deal with misinformation, you can use Google. Once you’ve entered the keywords, go to Google News first so that your information comes from a highly reputable source.
  • Find prominent locals & use them as examples of how vaccinations work as they are a lot more relatable 
Dr. Katy Milkman
  • Get a sticker showing that you have gotten a vaccination & make it visible on social media platforms – the more role models who have done it, the more comfortable people get.
  • Provide transparency on how vigorous the testing process was & ensure that assurance comes from a wide range of people.
  • Clampdown on misinformation, e.g. putting labels warning that information could be false.
  • We need a herd mentality for herd immunity. 
  • Ensure people are scheduled & get reminders for the 2nd shot 
  • Put everyone into the lottery so that the whole experience of getting vaccinated feels like a treat. This could include having a roving ice-cream treat,  chocolate, or a little perk at the end. Make it festive. Make it so it isn’t aversive.
  • You could send a text message to people that includes a photo of a vial of vaccine with their name on it and say hey we have a vaccine with your name on it. Come and get it. 
  • If you want to make vaccination mandatory, if there was sufficient political will, then we should do it. You could deny people the right to fly or be able to attend a Taylor Swift concert if you don’t get vaccinated.
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