One in five Americans identify themselves as anti-Vaxxers or people who disagree with vaccine use, suggests a new study.
Researchers at Texas A&M University found that eight percent of Americans identify socially active as anti-Vaxxers, while 14 percent of Americans identify with the beliefs of anti-Vaxxers.
Those who identify themselves as anti-Vaxxers are more likely to have a stronger belief in their anti-Vaxx attitudes than people who do not identify with the team but have some beliefs related to it.
The team worries that the abundance of anti-Vaxx drugs in America is making public health messaging a challenge, and the fact that many identify with even the usually stigmatized label is a troubling discovery.
The data reflects an issue US health officials are currently facing with the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine, as the vaccine’s hesitation could prevent the country from ever achieving herd immunity.
Anti-Vaxx attitudes are becoming increasingly common in the United States, with one in five Americans having certain anti-vaccine attitudes. Some Americans even refer to themselves as anti-Vaxx and are unlikely to change their minds about their beliefs
For the study, which was published in the journal Politics, Groups and Identities, the researchers conducted a survey of 5,010 American adults and asked them a series of questions about vaccines and, ultimately, whether or not they were personally an anti-Vaxxer.
The researchers then used an algorithm to adjust the score for race, gender, income, and other factors that could affect the results.
They found that those who identified themselves more closely with the anti-Vaxx label were not only more believing in the ideology, but were also less likely to be reached by health professionals to change their minds.
Those who identified themselves as anti-Vaxxers were most likely anti-experts, a Republican, a parent with a child, or someone who thinks they are healthy.
Women and the elderly were the least likely to use anti-Vaxxers.
Many who identify as anti-Vaxxers see themselves as part of an ingroup, and health officials and others receiving vaccines see themselves as part of an outgroup.
Efforts to reach out to these people and try to convince them of health officials to get vaccines could even backfire as they may become more determined in their beliefs when facing the outgroup.
“The fact that a significant proportion of self-identified anti-Vaxxers recognize the anti-vaccine label as one of their social identities poses a major barrier to health communication and efforts to correct vaccine misinformation,” the authors write.
“If beliefs against the vaccine are based solely on disapproval of science, simple health news strategies might be able to overcome that disapproval and improve vaccine adoption.
“However, our results paint a completely different picture. For significant segments of the anti-Vaxx population, resistance to vaccines may be the result of deep social ties and a sense of collective identity with other anti-Vaxxists. ‘
“Altering a core characteristic of an individual’s underlying social identity is a much more difficult task than overcoming the simple rejection of scientific consensus.”
People who are skeptical of vaccinations but don’t consider their anti-Vaxx stance as part of their identity can be reached.
“People who do not see the anti-vaccine movement as central to their self-esteem but remain skeptical about vaccines may more easily push for vaccination,” the researchers continued.
Reluctance to vaccinate has become a cause for concern in America.
Health officials estimate that about 80 percent of Americans must be fully vaccinated in order for the country to achieve herd immunity.
Around 60 percent of American adults have been vaccinated and, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 20 percent of American adults will not be vaccinated unless they are required to.
Many of these people will be hard to reach to convince them to get vaccinated.
President Joe Biden had previously set a goal of having 70 percent of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4th.
However, as demand for the vaccine drops across the country, the chances of reaching that mark also decrease.