Worth a Shot: Encouraging Vaccine Uptake Through “Empathy”
Pro- and anti-vaccine organizations and individuals have frequently invoked empathy as a strategy for increasing uptake of COVID-19 precautions, including vaccinations. On one hand, vaccine supporters deployed empathy to defuse conflict, prioritize safeguarding the collective welfare, and avoid government mandates. On the other hand, vaccine opponents used empathy to emphasize the alleged individual effects of pandemic precautions, mobilize public voices, and stress the importance of medical freedom in policy-making contexts.
This Article first defines empathy and reviews empathy scholarship, paying particular attention to its relationship with narrative and the contexts where empathy can be difficult or dangerous. It then applies these perspectives to the issue of vaccine uptake. Finally, it deconstructs empathy messaging in pro- and anti- COVID-19 vaccine social media messaging and at a rally opposing Indiana University’s vaccine “mandate” on June 10, 2021.
Dr. Jody Lyneé Madeira