The shot, the message, and the messenger: COVID-19 vaccine acceptance in Latin America

Herd immunity by mass vaccination offers the potential to substantially limit the continuing spread of COVID-19, but high levels of vaccine hesitancy threaten this goal. In a cross-country analysis of vaccine hesitant respondents across Latin America in January 2021, we experimentally tested how five features of mass vaccination campaigns—the vaccine’s producer, efficacy, endorser, distributor, and current population uptake rate—shifted willingness to take a COVID-19 vaccine. We find that citizens preferred Western-produced vaccines, but were highly influenced by factual information about vaccine efficacy. Vaccine hesitant individuals were more responsive to vaccine messengers with medical expertise than political, religious, or media elite endorsements. Citizen trust in foreign governments, domestic leaders, and state institutions moderated the effects of the campaign features on vaccine acceptance. These findings can help inform the design of unfolding mass inoculation campaigns.