Covid-19 Spillover Effects onto General Vaccine Attitudes

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Even amid the unprecedented public health challenges attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, opposition to vaccinating against the novel coronavirus has been both prevalent and politically contentious in American public life. In this paper, we theorize that attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination might "spill over" to shape attitudes toward “post-pandemic” vaccination programs and policy mandates for years to come. We find this to be the case using evidence from a large, original panel study, as well as two observational surveys, conducted on American adults during the pandemic. Specifically, we observe evidence of COVID-19 vaccine spillover onto general vaccine skepticism, flu shot intention, and attitudes toward hypothetical vaccines (i.e., vaccines in development), which do not have pre-existing attitudinal connotations. Further, these spillover effects vary by partisanship and COVID-19 vaccination status, with the political left and those who received two or more COVID-19 vaccine doses becoming more pro-vaccine, while the political right and the unvaccinated became more anti-vaccine. Taken together, these results point to the salience and politicization of the COVID-19 vaccine impacting non-COVID vaccine attitudes. We end by discussing the implications of this study for effective health messaging.

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