What Motivates Covid Conspiracy Believers?

Health and Gender Policy Brief #140 | By: S Bhimji | November 2, 2021

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Policy Summary

As of Sept 2021, there are still close to 70 million adult Americans who have not been vaccinated against Covid. Despite all types of incentives, these folks have refused to get the shot. President Biden had signaled that he would have liked most of the country to be vaccinated by July 2021 but as of now, there are millions who adamantly refuse to be vaccinated.

About 51% of these individuals have religious and personal reasons for not getting the shot and the rest have all types of superstitious beliefs. Some believe that the government is trying to control the population with the vaccine, others believe that Bill Gates has something sinister to do with the vaccine and yet there are others who believe that the vaccine will turn them into zombies.

Many businesses have mandated that their workers be vaccinated in order to remain employed; in addition, unvaccinated individuals now are prevented from entering many public places and cannot travel by air with certain airlines. As the delta variant spreads rapidly there is concern that the epidemic may not end soon.

But what is happening to these unvaccinated individuals in terms of their health, employment, and quality of life?

Policy Analysis

A recent study from the Netherlands surveyed 5,745 participants during the months of April and Dec 2020. The focus of the study was to primarily determine what was happening to the superstitious individuals who refuse to be vaccinated.

This study just published reveals that individuals who believe in Covid 19 conspiracies are less likely to undergo testing for Covid 19 but when tested are more likely to be positive for the virus.

Further, these individuals were more likely to lose their jobs, more likely to break coronavirus rules to hide the fact that they are not vaccinated, and face social isolation in both personal and professional life. The end result was a loss of income, below-par overall well-being, and a poor quality of life.

The study authors wrote, “one basic property of conspiracy theories is that they are consequential, even if a conspiracy theory is extremely implausible according to logic or scientific evidence, if it seems real to a perceiver, it has a genuine impact on attitudes, emotions, and behavior.”

The conclusion of the study was that the type of ‘conspiracy belief’ helps the individuals cope with the challenges they are facing and in the end it also has significant repercussions for public and private health, as well as overall social and financial well-being.

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Photo taken from: Tulane News 

Geoffrey Dancy, an expert in conspiracy theories suggests that such beliefs are common during times of stress because they help explain events that are beyond logical explanation or control. Further, he notes that conspiracy theorists find great comfort in blaming something else or someone else for a mega issue like a pandemic. For example, these individuals may suspect that the government has engineered a vaccine that will control the population or that the pharmaceutical companies will produce a vaccine that makes them vulnerable to other diseases.

One thing is for sure, conspiracy theorists are fanatical about their delusional beliefs- a feature that is common in psychosis and other mental health problems.

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

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Understanding delusions: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3016695/#:~:text=A%20delusion%20is%20a%20belief,or%20her%20level%20of%20intelligence.


Geoff Dancy: 


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The science of superstition – and why people believe in the unbelievable. https://theconversation.com/the-science-of-superstition-and-why-people-believe-in-the-unbelievable-97043

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