Background: Mandating vaccination against COVID-19 is often discussed as a means to counter low vaccine uptake. Beyond the potential legal, ethical, and psychological concerns, a successful implementation also needs to consider citizens' support for such a policy. Public attitudes toward vaccination mandates and their determinants might differ over time and, hence, should be monitored.
Methods: Between April 2020 and April 2021, we investigated public support for mandatory vaccination policies in Germany and examined individual correlates, such as vaccination intentions, confidence in vaccine safety, and perceived collective responsibility, using a series of cross-sectional, quota-representative surveys (overall N = 27,509).
Results: Support for a vaccination mandate declined before the approval of the first vaccine against COVID-19 in December 2020 and increased afterwards. However, at the end of April 2021, only half of respondents were in favor of mandatory regulations. In general, mandates were endorsed by those who considered the vaccines to be safe, anticipated practical barriers, and felt responsible for the collective. On the contrary, perceiving vaccination as unnecessary and weighing the benefits and risks of vaccination was related to lower support. Older individuals and males more often endorsed vaccination mandates than did younger participants and females. Interestingly, there was a gap between vaccination intentions and support for mandates, showing that the attitude toward mandatory vaccination was not only determined by vaccination-related factors such as vaccine safety or prosocial considerations.
Conclusions: Because of low public support, mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 should be considered a measure of last resort in Germany. However, if removing barriers to vaccination and educational campaigns about vaccine safety and the societal benefits of high vaccination uptake are not sufficient for increasing vaccination uptake to the required levels, mandates could be introduced. In this case, measures to ensure and increase acceptance and adherence should be taken.
Keywords: COVID-19; Mandates; Vaccination.
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