When people in the Czech Republic learned that a large number of doctors intended to get vaccinated against covid-19, they were a little more likely to get the vaccine themselves.


June 1, 2022

A man receives a third injection of covid-19 vaccine in Prague, Czech Republic

Tomasz Tkaczyk / SOPA Images / Shutterstock

Providing accurate information on how doctors view covid-19 vaccines can reduce vaccine variability among the general population, according to a study in the Czech Republic. More people in the country have chosen to receive a coronavirus vaccine after being told at the start of the pandemic that most doctors intended to be vaccinated.

Vaccine hesitation was a major problem during the pandemic around the world. In the Czech Republic around 64 percent people have received two doses of coronavirus vaccine, which is higher than the world average 60 percent. The Czech Republic also has one of the highest covid-19 deaths per capita in the world.

Wojciech Bartosz at the University of Milan in Italy and his colleagues surveyed 2501 people in the Czech Republic in March 2021 – two months after covid-19 began to be used in the country. The participants were national representatives of the country.

The researchers asked people to estimate the percentage of doctors in the country who would be vaccinated and the percentage of doctors who would recommend the injection to their patients.

Bartosz and his colleagues believe that the media discourse surrounding the vaccine at the time may have given a distorted view of what doctors believed about the sting. “Journalists spent the same time with those who trusted vaccines and those who were skeptical,” he said. “It was a false balance.”

The team chose to study the Czech Republic, as it is known that its population has a similar level of faith in their doctors as the world average, with 73 percent saying doctors in the country can be trusted.

The researchers found that about 60% of participants believed that Czech doctors intended to be vaccinated, while 57% believed that doctors would recommend pricking patients.

Half of the participants were then informed of the results of a study conducted by the team on 9,650 doctors in the Czech Republic, which found that 90 percent of doctors intend to receive a prick and 95 percent plan to recommend the vaccine to their patients. The other half was not given this information.

“We saw a huge discrepancy between what the doctors actually told us and what the population thought,” Bartosz said. The researchers hoped that by correcting this misunderstanding, they could encourage participants in their study to overcome any hesitation about the vaccine and get vaccinated.

The researchers followed the participants for nine months. When vaccine deployment intensified in July 2021, those who were told by doctors their true beliefs about vaccines were 4% more likely to be vaccinated than those who were not.

This figure remained stable during the remaining months of follow-up. When participants were asked about their intention to receive a booster, a similar difference of 4 percent was observed between the two groups.

Bartosz says the findings point to an easy and cheap way to vaccinate more people.

He is not sure if the results will be repeated in other countries. “It’s hard to say,” he said. “My best guess is that this could work very similarly in those countries where trust in doctors is similar and where there is this spread of false balance sheets.

That’s an important finding, he says Heidi Larson at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It is particularly striking that the effect of providing people with real statistics on the views of doctors in the Czech Republic has been maintained in the long run, she said.

Reference journal: nature, DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-022-04805-y

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