Without first boosting confidence, we won’t be able to boost immunity

Understand the science behind nurturing faith in COVID vaccines

Author: Nirit Pisano, Ph.D. 

In a May 5th press release, Moderna announced its early findings stemming from a study of boosters to the COVID-19 vaccine. This broadcast might have been viewed as promising, even exciting news to some, further strengthening the public’s confidence toward vaccination. And indeed, it was presented as such by TIME: boosters might effectively protect individuals from novel strains of the virus down the line. The report was issued, however, at a time when half of Americans remain generally hesitant around COVID vaccination, and nervous about Moderna’s vaccine side-effects. 

The report begs the questions: did the well-intentioned announcement about booster efficacy improve the public’s perception towards COVID vaccines and enhance the overall willingness of Americans to get vaccinated? Or was the timing and presentation of the report counter-productive? How might government officials, pharmaceutical companies and the media sift through the chatter to identify in advance those messages that will be well-received versus those that are premature? How can life-saving interventions be delivered in a way that feels relevant, timely and digestible for its recipients? 

In the month prior to the publication of this news report, Moderna’s vaccine booster was seemingly on a roll. Individuals felt emotionally engaged with the innovation and showed a rich emotional response to the concept. Moderna’s booster, above all others, seemed to draw confidence and motivation: its Intent Score, Cognovi Labs’ proprietary measure of the public’s intent towards a specific product, was at a high of 81 out of 100 between April 1 and May 1, 2021. 

In an atmosphere of transparency regarding scientific advancements, and in response to growing anxiety about possible breakthrough COVID variants, these booster-related findings circulated. Unfortunately, in the days leading up to and following the announcement, Moderna’s booster-specific Intent Score dropped to a low of 3, as individuals now displayed reduced amusement and surprise, and increased disgust and fear, toward the product. Becoming clear even before the press release, the public’s enthusiasm toward a hypothetical booster was on the decline, and unlikely to translate into actual readiness for this step toward immunity. 

Fortunately, three days out from the announcement, the public’s emotional response to Moderna’s booster report has not spilled onto Moderna’s larger brand or confidence toward its vaccine; however, Cognovi Labs’ Psychological Artificial Intelligence will continually track any resulting reverberations over the days and weeks ahead, understanding that emotions drive decisions, including those made by the public about vaccines every day. The key takeaway? It is critical that the emotional impact of a narrative be tested prior to a press release in order to accurately predict the public’s emotional reaction and future behavior.

Until public health workers successfully address the narratives shaping vaccine perception, groundbreaking news will be shortchanged and vaccine hesitancy will persist. In private and public domains, Cognovi Labs works with clients to monitor the emotional patterns at play – in real time, all the time – thus anticipating the specific emotional response that any big or small event will trigger. Our Intent Score highlights a company’s strengths and challenges as they unfold, as well as several formative factors that, from the outside, appear entirely unrelated to the brand. 

By boosting vaccine confidence where others focus on boosting immunity, Cognovi Labs hopes to do its part in promoting public health and a successful vaccination campaign.

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