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This article has been translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors can occur due to this process.
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The story of someone you trust can save your life or quarantine you for many months. If your friend who has already been vaccinated tells you that the medicine is working, you will be vaccinated. There are ideological currents which, out of ignorance, slander or seek defamation theories where none exist. Better listen to the doctor.
In these days, many countries have started their vaccination campaigns against COVID-19. I'm happy. First, because many lives will be saved. Second, because we finally have something that can return us to the normalcy we long for. And third, because humanity has shown that, if it wants to, it can work together to overcome great challenges.
The paradox of saving vaccines
We should be optimistic. But half of my friends and family are fearful or suspicious. Some tell me they don't want to be the first to get treatment. Others who will not be vaccinated under any circumstances. We face a paradox: since we already have the cure, there are those who fear it as or more than the disease itself.
Maybe you know people like that around you. For what it's worth, it's a worldwide phenomenon. In September, the Pew Research Center found that 49% of the US population were unwilling to receive the vaccine right away. In Spain, the Sociological Research Center calculated that the proportion of these people rose from 40.3% in September to 47% in November.
The truth is that vaccination is not mandatory in many democratic countries. For the campaign to be effective, people need to want to be vaccinated. And the less we need to convince ourselves, the faster we can achieve “herd immunity”. So what can we do to fight these people's fear and rejection?
The answer to the question has to do with an already classical theory and with social storytelling. In the 1950s, sociologist Everett M. Rogers was studying agribusiness in the United States and found that there were innovations that local producers were adopting faster than others. In 1962 he published a theory that went around the world: that of "the diffusion of innovations".
It works more or less like this: Whenever an innovation appears in a society of well-communicated people, five attitudes are to be expected, which manifest themselves successively and over time. These are:
That from innovative or pioneering people . They are the ones who have no hesitation in adopting innovations as soon as they become available. The the first trailer . They are the group of those who couldn't be pioneers but will willingly accept that they can. The the precocious majority . A massive group waiting to see how the previous two groups deal with innovation. The the late majority . Another massive group, however reluctant (or unacceptable) to innovate. The the Stragglers . People who do not accept innovations out of fear of change or distrust.
Rogers estimated the percentage of the population for each setting (see graph below) and subsequent studies showed that the same pattern was common in environments, industries, and countries around the world.
Theory of the dissemination of innovations by Rogers (1962) and critical leap by Moore (1991) / De Plc.gif: Original creator Vvdberg at nl.wikipedia. Derivative work: Osado – Plc.gif, CC BY-SA 3.0
A theory with limitations and critics
Today, academics in business, sociology, or marketing are accepting the model and applying it to demographic and market studies. Pop culture has accepted it too, as shown by a famous video by Simon Sinek.
As a theory, it has not been definitively proven or refuted. In fact, it has been proven that it cannot be applied to certain systems and that it is insufficient to explain how some commercial products succeed (e.g. the iPhone) and others fail (e.g. the DeLorean). In 1991, Geoffrey Moore backed up the idea by developing an explanation of why this doesn't always work and how the limitation can be overcome.
I believe Rogers' theory is applicable to the case of vaccines. And that sums up why almost half of people in many countries say they don't want to be the first: it's because they are part of the “late majority” and “latecomers” that, as the previous graph shows , 50% of the people are responsible.
Theory in practice
In democratic countries that (I insist) do not require vaccination, Rogers' model predicts that 2.5% of the population will feel naturally "pioneers" and will feel themselves within a few hours of the vaccination campaign volunteer. It is people who ask their doctor where they can be treated before the first doses even reach the country. They will do it because they are brave or because they feel responsible for themselves and others. There will also be those who like to be kept up to date on everything.
But when the pioneers show that they are still healthy and that the vaccine has not harmed them, the “first followers” will arrive. You do not have to be called: you also volunteer or ask everywhere when it is your turn. You will be standing in line for quite a long time offering money (or time) for vaccination. And when they do, another 13.5% more of the population will be added to the list of vaccinated.
What makes an innovation a success or a failure?
This is where Rogers Theory (and the vaccination campaign) comes in. I used to mention Geoffrey Moore. He discovered that the success or failure of disruptive innovations (the vaccine is) is determined at a critical point: the leap from "early followers" to "early majority".
If the latter accept the innovation, the vaccine will reach 50% of the population and success will be practically certain. If not, failure will inevitably follow. What drives the early majority to embrace innovation?
Very simple: tell stories! In other words, the story the "first followers" will tell others about how the experience was for them. That will lead the early majorities to believe (or not) that the vaccine is working.
So forget what the politician or the TV news is saying. If your brother and friend, who has already been vaccinated, tell you that the medicine is working, you will be vaccinated. Because you will see that it works for you and you don't want to be any different.
Conversely, if your vaccinated friend tells you that the treatment did not work for him, that he was badly treated or that the substance caused him severe pain, you will not accept the medicine. As simple (and complex) as follows: The story of someone you trust can save your life or keep you in quarantine for many months .
What is the lesson in relation to storytelling?
When vaccination is a voluntary option and people need to convince themselves of it quickly, creating stories of trust is important. Especially to motivate the "pioneers" and the "first followers" to give it a try.
But then, in the interests of all, we need to facilitate communication between these two groups and those who have concerns. In this, I think we all play a crucial role: political authorities, scientists, media and manufacturers of the vaccine. But also you and I as citizens.
When the authorities, academia and the media spread the success stories and normalize the image of the vaccine, they are doing an excellent job. Manufacturers who report favorable and certified results for their products also do well. In Spain, the percentage of people who said they didn't take the vaccine fell to 28% in December. And that's a success.
But you and I also have a role. You should know that every time you share a joke, cartoon or meme about the vaccine on your social networks, or send cynical comments without the slightest clue of what you are saying, you are contributing to "precociousness." Majority ”. You will feel less safe and will take longer to be vaccinated. They help the virus last a long time.
You should also know that there are political groups, lobbies and ideological currents which, out of total ignorance, slander or seek conspiracy theories where there are none. Their interests are evil and they pursue power and influence, if not evil for evil's sake.
Better ignore them. Better yet, if you don't give them a place in your conversations. Better to listen to your doctor first.