The role of externalizing traits in vaccine hesitancy

Clinical Neuropsychiatry has published a paper about an action-research we run during the COVID-19 pandemic about vaccine hesitancy. The main research question was: How we can reduce the hesitancy or even refusal of anti-COVID-19 vaccine in cancer patients? Indeed, cancer patients were and are considered persons at risk for severe manifestation of SARS-CoV-2.

Preliminarily, we conducted a qualitative study thorugh focus groups. We were exploring those factors that may fuel an hesitant attitude. Then, we tested it in a large sample of cancer patients during the Italian vaccination campaign. Finally, we outline a communication strategy based on collected results.

In short, we found that the higher the externalizing traits (antagonism + disinibhition) the higher the association between risk perception and vaccine hesitancy. That is, persons with externalizing traits were at increased risk of a paradoxical response. Once they perceived a higher risk of being infected they reacted by being dubious or even suspicious about vaccination.

Therefore, the communication aimed to reduced the distress associated with this risk perception rather than disbuting the contents about vaccine safety. Our strategy led to a very low rate of cancer patients refusin vaccine. The study was run at the Florence Department of Oncology.

Cheli, S., Pino, M. S., Goldzweig, G., Scoccianti, S., Fabbroni, V., Giordano, C., Cavalletti, V., Bassetti, A., & Fioretto, L. (2022). The Relationship Between Covid-19 Risk Perception and Vaccine Hesitancy in Cancer Patients: The Moderating Role of Externalizing Traits. Clinical neuropsychiatry19(6), 355–364.