When the first shots debuted more than a year ago, the message felt mostly uniform. “Everyone was in agreement: These vaccines are fantastic; everyone who’s eligible should get them,” says Gretchen Chapman, a behavioral scientist at Carnegie Mellon University who studies vaccine uptake. And so hundreds of millions of people did.
For boosters, experts presented nothing like that unified front.… The erratic narrative on vaccines writ large also hasn’t done the U.S. booster campaign any favors. When the shots were fresh out of the gate, Americans were set up to believe that they could take an initial course of doses and be done—with COVID vaccines, maybe even with the pandemic itself. But as more data emerged, it became evident that the shots’ protective powers had been oversold. Vaccines operate best in gradations, blunting and truncating the worst symptoms of disease; they never completely obliterate risk. “We failed to communicate that,” says Jessica Fishman, the director of the Message Effects Lab at the University of Pennsylvania. Read more in The Atlantic.