Even before Covid-vaccines were developed, researchers of the US elite university Yale investigated which mass psychological means could best be used to get people to push each other to vaccinate. The messages that were identified as particularly effective in a large, elaborate experimental study were precisely those that were later used internationally to promote social ostracism and discrimination of people hesitant to be vaccinated.
As early as 3 July 2020, started an experimental study by Yale researchers from seven departments, which would much later be published under the title “Persuasive messaging to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake intentions“.
Considering the elaborate study design with over 4000 participants that had to be recruited and the many university institutes involved (Global Health, Infectious Diseases, Social and Policy Studies, American Politics, Political Science, Epidemiology, Nursing), it is obvious that the planning must have started well before July, when it was still completely in the dark when vaccines would be available and what their characteristics would be.
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When the study was finally published in the journal Vaccine in October 2021, the authors admitted as much in the remarks on “limitations” of the study:
“We measured intentions to vaccinate at a time when a vaccine was not currently available and the effectiveness and side effects of potential vaccines were not known.”
However, this lack of knowledge did not stop the scientists from simply claiming, in the various messages which were being tested, that the vaccinations were highly effective and safe and that a high vaccination rate could end the pandemic through herd immunity. These were precisely the claims that would be used all over the world in the subsequent vaccination campaigns. They have since been proven to be highly exaggerated or plain false.
Yet even in autumn 2021, when the study results were published, and when it had long been clear that there are serious side effects in considerable numbers and that herd immunity is not achievable with the very limited effectiveness of the vaccines, the authors unabashedly claimed:
“It remains important to convince the mass public of the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure that the threshold for herd immunity is reached. Our experiments provide robust evidence that appealing to protecting others has effects on intentions to get vaccinated and to apply social pressure to others to do so as well.”
The authors unusually do not reveal how many subjects participated in the experiment, but only that 4361 stayed until the end. A control group of just under 600 subjects did not receive any messages relevant to vaccination decisions. Just under 300 received the basic message with the claims about the effectiveness and safety of vaccination and that it would be important for as many as possible to be vaccinated in order to end the pandemic. In 12 equally sized groups of also just under 300 test persons, this basic message was supplemented with different additional messages that were supposed to generate moral judgments and feelings.
At the beginning and at the end of the experiment all participants were asked, it they intended to be vaccinated and if they would pressure others to get vaccinated. The following statements proved to be the most effective:
Community Interest and Embarrassment: Imagine how embarrassed and ashamed you will be if you choose not to get vaccinated and spread COVID-19 to someone you care about.
Not Bravery: (…) Peoople who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 when there is a vaccine available because they don’t think they will get sick or aren’t worried about it aren’t brave, they are reckless. By not getting vaccinated, you risk the health of your family, friends, and community. There is nothing attractive and independent-minded about ignoring public health guidance. Not getting the vaccine when it becomes available means you risk the health of others. To show strength get the vaccine so you don’t get sick and take resources from other people who need them more, or risk spreading the disease to those who are at risk, some of whom can’t get a vaccine.
Trust in Science: Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the most effective means of protecting your community. The only way we can beat COVID-19 is by following scientific approaches, such as vaccination. Prominent scientists believe that once available, vaccines will be the most effective tool to stop the spread of COVID-19. The people who reject getting vaccinated are typically ignorant or confused about the science.
Personal Freedom: COVID-19 is limiting many people’s ability to live their lives as they see fit. People have had to cancel weddings, not attend funerals, and halt other activities that are important in their daily lives. On top of this, government policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 limit our freedom of association and movement. Remember, each person who gets vaccinated reduces the chance that we lose our freedoms or government lockdowns return. While you can’t do it alone, we can all keep our freedom by getting vaccinated.”
Most effective, unsurprisingly, was the “no bravery” message, which contains the largest bouquet of moral indictments against people who choose not to be vaccinated. All in all, the four most successful messages already contain pretty much everything that has been constantly drummed into us through all channels in the course of the campaign of moral outrage and exclusion against sceptics:
- People who do not get vaccinated may have to live with having infected and killed loved ones afterwards.
- They are reckless, inconsiderate and ignorant.
- If they become ill by their own fault, they take away resources from others who need them more urgently.
- They jeopardize at-risk groups and people who cannot get vaccinated.
- They are stupid or malicious science deniers, because prominent scientists are (always) right.
- They are to blame for the necessary restrictions of freedom by the government.
These messages have caused so much hatred of the unvaccinated, so much division in society, because they were designed and tested to do just that. As the authors of the study put it in posh, scientific terms.
“Not only does emphasizing that vaccination is a prosocial action increase uptake, but it also increases people’s willingness to pressure others to do so, both by direct persuasion and negative judgment of non-vaccinators.”
What happens next?
The Yale experts on population manipulation through propaganda continue to eagerly advise. When the erstwhile conspiracy theory of the annual vaccination was declared official US government policy on 6 September 2022, Saad Omer, one of the study’s authors, was on hand with implementation advice.
The White House Corona Coordinator, Ashish Jha, had announced that in future a covid vaccination would probably be needed “only” once a year. This, he said, would best be administered together with the annual flu vaccination. He also said:
“I really believe this is why God gave us two arms — one for the flu shot and the other one for the covid shot.”
To this end, Saad Omer, an epidemiology professor, said the most effective strategy would be to create an opt-out system using the “nudge theory”. Every time someone comes into contact with health workers, that person should be offered vaccination by default.
Omer’s Yale colleagues expressed scepticism in the same article about whether we are really ready to vaccinate only once a year. So much for the great effectiveness of vaccination that Yale was still praising in autumn 2021 and its promise of an end to the pandemic when most people have been vaccinated.
About the Author
Dr. Norbert Häring (international spelling: Haering) born 1963, lives and works as a business journalist in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. He grew up on a farm in southern Germany. He studied economics in Heidelberg and Saarbrücken. In Saarbrücken he obtained a Ph.D. in economics with a thesis on the political economy of regional subsidies. His thesis advisor was Olaf Sievert, former head of the Germen governments Council of Economic Advisors (Sachverständigenrat).
He worked for three years at Commerzbank, first in the economics department, then as a speech writer and Managing Editor of the annual and quarterly reports. In 1997 he moved to journalism. He worked for Börsen-Zeitung and Financial Times Deutschland, before joining Handelsblatt in 2002 as a correspondent for monetary affairs. In 2002 he convened the Shadow ECB Council, a Group of 15 eminent economists from financial institutions, universities and research institutes, for which he served as (non-voting) chairman until 2015. Since 2012 he is in charge of economics and business cycle reporting.
In 2011 he co-founded, with Edward Fullbrook and others, the World Economics Association (WEA). He was an editor of the World Economic Review published by WEA from 2012 to 2015.
Norbert Häring is author (with Olaf Storbeck) of the best-selling book „Ökonomie 2.0“, which won the title economics book of the year 2007 by getAbstract and was translated into English (“Economics 2.0”) and four other languages, as well as the author of several other popular books on economics, which have been translated in several languages. In 2014 he was awarded the Keynes-Prize for Economic Writing by Keynes-Gesellschaft (Keynes-Society).
He is plaintiff in a lawsuit for the right to pay public fees in cash, which has drawn a verdict of the European Court of Justice and is currently awaiting the final ruling of the German highest administrative court, which is expect in early 2022.
His main passtimes are playing backgammon and volley ball, slacklining and juggling.
Publications and presentations in English
(For a full list of publications, video and audio-files, see Lebenslauf)
- All the good things a digital euro could do – and all the bad things it will. Real-world Economics Review. Issue No. 94. 2020.
- Who is behind the campaign to rid the world of cash? Real-world Economics Review, Issue No. 86, 2018 (= translation of the Introduction and part of Chapter 1 of the book, Schönes neues Geld (Brave New Money), which was published in German by Campus in August 2018.
- Corrupted economic research, academic gatekeepers and the media: The case of tuition fees (with Edward Fullbrook). WEA Commentaries 8(1), February 2018.
- Economics as Superstructure. Presentation at a Seminar at the House of Lords, London, 23. March 2015.
- Economists and the Powerful – Convenient Truths, Distorted Facts, Ample Rewards. 2012. with Niall Douglas. Anthem.
- The veil of deception over money. 2013. Real World Economic Review. Issue no. 63. 2 – 19.
- The sources and consequences of bankers’ power. 2010. International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education, Vol. 1, 242 – 259.Interjurisdictional redistribution and public goods with increasing returns to scale. 1998. Public Choice, Vol. 95, 321-329.
- Presentation and discussion with Lord Robert Skidelsky und Steve Keen at the annual meeting of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, in Hong Kong, April 6, 2013 in the plenary session „Economics and the Powerful“(from minute 32:20).
- Economics 2.0. What the best minds in economics can teach you about business and life. St Martin’s Press. 2008
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