In a pandemic, uncertainty is apparent, especially regarding the effectiveness of treatments, policies and outcomes. This is especially evident during the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic caused by severe acute coronavirus 2 respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV-2). To date, SARS-CoV-2 has infected more than 115 million people and caused more than 2.5 million deaths worldwide. The importance of communicating around health care in such circumstances cannot be overstated.
All health care decisions are made with uncertainty. In addition to the general risks that the healthcare professional is aware of, there is also uncertainty around the associated probabilities, called ambiguity or radical uncertainty. These uncertainties increase when vaccines generated at an unprecedented rate are administered worldwide.
Uncertainty can be 1) inaccuracy (for example, 10-30% chance of benefiting from treatment), 2) conflict (for example, experts do not agree) and 3) lack of information (for example, insufficient evidence); they are all present during a pandemic. In the case of vaccines, there are inaccuracies in their efficacy and a lack of information on how they will affect transmission and restrictions, and there may be conflicting opinions.
In addition to the prevalence of uncertainty, there is also a lack of consensus on the best ways to communicate with people to achieve the best results. The study looked at how patients respond to reports of uncertainty, how they understand it, and how it affects their decision-making.
In another approach, researchers from University College London and the University of Warwick investigated the negative consequences of not reporting uncertainties. In the context of COVID-19 vaccines, the researchers addressed these questions in their study: Are there times when, no matter how difficult it is to report uncertainty, it is better to do so than to hide them? Doesn’t the lack of information about uncertainty work if people find out that they exist and are exposed to conflicting information? This study of how people respond to conflicting vaccine reports was recently posted on a preprint server. medRxiv *.
Trust and confidence in the public official who announced the vaccine before receiving conflicting information (ie after the announcement of the vaccine) and after receiving conflicting information through the certainty of the announcements.
“Our findings show that openness to uncertainty can maintain public confidence in the long run. In a crisis like Covid-19, what we do not know, we are faced with information that is constantly changing and sometimes contradictory. uncertainty, measures such as the vaccination program can be prevented, further abandoned ” Dr. Eleanor Batto is an honorary researcher at the Center for Uncertainty in Decision Making (UCL) and co-author of this study.
Researchers conducted an online study with UK participants on hypothetical reports regarding COVID-19 vaccines. The researchers conducted this survey in November 2020, before announcing any vaccine against COVID-19 and its effectiveness.
The intention of vaccination and the perceived effectiveness of the vaccine before receiving conflicting information (ie after the announcement of the vaccine) and after receiving conflicting information through the certainty of the announcement.
Participants (n = 328) first read the advertisement for the vaccine with which they communicated certainty or uncertainty; followed by other information that contradicts the original announcement. Participants were randomly distributed certain or uncertain communication. The hypotheses in this study were pre-registered on the Open Science Framework (OSF; https://osf.io/c73px/).
The researchers found that those affected certain Reports report a greater loss of confidence and intention to vaccinate than those affected uncertain advertisement.
In this study, the researchers discussed in detail their results on vaccinations, government, predictions of vaccination intentions, and emotions. Participants who received certain the ad perceived it as less effective after reading the conflicting information.
I wonder what certain The announcement has led to a greater decline in trust and confidence in civil servants after the discovery of conflicting information.
It was noted that the perceived efficacy of the vaccine mediates the relationship between uncertainty information and the intention to vaccinate. With this in mind, the researchers investigated whether this was also the case in this study. They found that both trust in a government official and tangible effectiveness mediate the relationship between the certainty of advertisements and the intention to vaccinate.
“Although the structure of the conclusions about emotions is similar, the differences between those receiving a definite and vague announcement were less clear, possibly due to the hypothetical nature of the study.”
The researchers noted that their findings confirmed calls for greater transparency and recognition of uncertainty regarding COVID-19. They emphasize the benefits of informing about uncertainty, which we hope will further encourage research to do so.
In the section title, “What to do if uncertainties are not reported?” researchers first explored a new angle. Although research indicates the benefits of not reporting uncertainties, it has been found that communicating with unreasonable confidence is detrimental to trust.
Participants were briefed on one case of conflicting information. On the contrary, during a pandemic, there are likely to be many cases, the researchers warned, discussing the limitations of this study.
In this study, researchers investigated how uncertain relationships affect vaccination confidence and intent over time, perceived vaccine efficacy, and affective responses after receiving a message before, after receiving conflicting information.
This study showed that communicating with unreasonable confidence can backfire in the long run, while reporting uncertainty can protect people from the negative effects of conflicting information, the researchers write.
* Important message
medRxiv publishes prior scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and therefore should not be considered final, aimed at clinical practice / health-related behavior, or considered as established information.