Vaccine mandates may convince some hesitant people, but not all: behavioural science researcher

Some people aren't getting vaccinated because they don't see a need and a mandate might help, says Gordon Pennycook.

Some people aren't getting vaccinated because they don't see a need: Gordon Pennycook

Universities and businesses have been mandating vaccines for students, staff and patrons. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

From local universities to music venues, several mandatory vaccine policies have been announced in Saskatchewan over the past week. 

Mandatory vaccinations are not just a safety precaution. They are also intended to incentivize those who have not already been vaccinated to do so. However, they may not be the only thing needed to end the pandemic, according to a University of Regina professor. 

Gordon Pennycook, assistant professor of behavioural studies at the University of Regina, has done a lot of research on people who are vaccine hesitant.

"People who are politically conservative tend to be far more hesitant," Pennycook told Saskatoon Morning.

Beyond political leanings, he said there are two main types of hesitancy. How effective vaccine mandates will be depends on how many hesitant people fall into each of these types, he said. 

The first kind of person feels as though there's not much risk involved with COVID and they haven't heard that much about the benefits of being vaccinated, Pennycook said. These people are the most likely to be affected by a mandatory vaccine mandate, he said. 

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"They don't really care, and so they probably care to, say, travel or to go to the university or whatever. And so they'll probably get vaccinated because they care more about doing the things that they want to do than not getting vaccinated," Pennycook said. 

The second type of person listed misinformation, such as false notions about microchips, as their reasons for not getting the jab in surveys, he said. Those people are against vaccination on the basis of "personal freedom" and not being "sheeple," and will continue to fight against it, Pennycook said. 

The mandate may not affect those firmly against vaccines until they become very sick, he said. 

"Eventually people either are going to get the vaccine or you're going to get COVID. I mean, we don't know how long it's going to take, but eventually it's probably going to happen. And so, you know, maybe that's just what's going to have to happen next," Pennycook said.

The vaccine mandate is still worth it, Pennycook said.

At the same time, there are some people who cannot be vaccinated for legitimate reasons, so it's important for businesses to understand they are restricting those people and consider possible accommodations, he said. 

"It's like a risk calculation for organizations," he said.

With files from Saskatoon Morning