Worried about AstraZeneca? Me too. The way we think about risk might be the problem

26 July 2021

Dr Jason Tangen from UQ's School of Psychology features in The Age about risk perception and the AstraZeneca jab. 

We’re more worried about dying in a plane crash than a car crash, despite car crashes being much more common.

And what about the determined campaigning we see from communities against natural-gas drilling, while in other places people live happily in towns on earthquake fault lines or built on top of volcanoes?

Dr Tangen explains when deciding whether to get the AstraZeneca jab, people are sometimes hesitant because of the incredible amount of media coverage about the risk of blood clots, the personal stories that are presented, and the rare reports from all over the world. 

“The same goes for reports of vaccine side effects. When thinking about whether to get the jab or not, these examples easily flood to mind.

Making matters worse for our brains, they tend to hunt for events to recall. It’s much easier to ‘bring to mind’ people dying from an AstraZeneca vaccine than all the people who have quietly had their lives saved by it."

AstraZeneca’s blood-clotting issues are rare and unusual, which makes them great candidates for media coverage and also easy to recall when thinking about risks.

“What doesn’t flood to mind are the many tens of thousands of people who got the jab without any ill effects whatsoever. Of course, these examples don’t come to mind, because we don’t hear about them," Dr Tangen said. 

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