Vaccine hesitancy in this country might very well be a reflection of the widening political divide between Democrats and Republicans. According to a recent PBS poll (if polls still have any credibility), 41% of Republicans have no plans to get the jab, compared to just 4% of Democrats. But vaccine hesitancy is a global, not national, problem. The Atlantic observes that in Russia, for example, only 40% of the population is vaccinated. Those opposed include Communists, anti-Putin activists and Orthodox. Distrust in government, whether it is Joe Biden or Vladimir Putin, is cited as a factor. But something else is at play. I know numerous Republicans who've been vaccinated. I know numerous liberal Democrats who have shied away. I believe there are other factors in this refusal called omission bias and .
Omission bias was discussed Monday by Dr, Gretchen Chapman on Here and Now. Long before COVID-19 reared its ugly, spike-protein head. she conducted a study in which participants were presented a hypothetical about a fictitious disease called nauseosis. They were told they had a 10% chance of contracting the disease. They were also told that there was a vaccine, but a small number of those who took it might contract the disease itself.
The rational thing to do is take the vaccine, as it presents a smaller risk iof getting infected than doing nothing at all. But as Dr. Chapman, explained, people feel more regret if they contract a disease after taking precautions than if they do nothing at all. They feel this regret is because the harm they suffered was caused by an action they took. They feel less regret if they just let nature take its course. This is omission bias.
Her study finds, not surprisingly, that those who declined the nauseosis vaccine would also decline the flu vaccine in the real world.
This is pretty much consistent with my own life history. I once had a very bad experience with a flu vaccine. Thereafter, I refused to get the jab even though I contracted the flu nearly every year. I felt less regret in getting the flu than I did when getting sick just once over an affirmative action I took.
Another bias at play is a naturalness bias, a preference for herbal treatments over synthetic products. We see that with the anti-vaxers who tout Vitamin D.
Neither of these biases is rooted in any particular political ideology. But they are biases and irrational.