Psychological predictors of vaccination intentions among U.S. undergraduates and online panel workers during the 2020 COVID- 19 pandemic

Suryaa Gupta, Shoko Watanabe, Sean M. Laurent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective Availability of safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 is critical for controlling the pandemic, but herd immunity can only be achieved with high vaccination coverage. The present research examined psychological factors associated with intentions to receive COVID-19 vaccination and whether reluctance towards novel pandemic vaccines are similar to vaccine hesitancy captured by a hypothetical measure used in previous research. Method Study 1 was administered to undergraduate students when COVID-19 was spreading exponentially (February-April 2020). Study 2 was conducted with online panel workers toward the end of the first U.S. wave (July 2020) as a pre-registered replication and extension of Study 1. In both studies, participants (total N = 1,022) rated their willingness to receive the COVID-19 vaccination and to vaccinate a hypothetical child for a fictitious disease, and then responded to various psychological measures. Results In both studies, vaccination intentions were positively associated with past flu vaccine uptake, self-reported vaccine knowledge, vaccine confidence, and sense of collective responsibility. Complacency (not perceiving disease as high-risk), anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs, perceived vaccine danger, and mistrust in science/scientists were negative correlates of vaccination intentions. Constraints (psychological barriers), calculation (extensive information-searching), analytical thinking, perceived disease vulnerability, self-other overlap, and conservatism were weakly associated with vaccination intentions but not consistently across both studies or vaccine types. Additionally, similar factors were associated with both real and hypothetical vaccination intentions, suggesting that conclusions from pre-COVID vaccine hesitancy research mostly generalize to the current pandemic situation. Conclusion Encouraging flu vaccine uptake, enhancing confidence in a novel vaccine, and fostering a sense of collective responsibility are particularly important as they uniquely predict COVID- 19 vaccination intentions. By including both actual pandemic-related hesitancy measures and hypothetical hesitancy measures from past research in the same study, this work provides key context for the generalizability of earlier non-pandemic research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0260380
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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