Predicting COVID-19 Vaccination Intention Using Protection Motivation Theory and Conspiracy Beliefs

Judith Eberhardt, Jonathan Ling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While COVID-19 vaccine uptake has been encouraging overall, some individuals are either hesitant towards, or refuse, the vaccine. Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) has been applied to influenza vaccine acceptance, but there is a lack of research applying PMT to COVID-19 vaccine acceptance. Additionally, prior research has suggested that coronavirus conspiracy beliefs and demographic factors may play a role in attitudes towards the vaccine. This study aimed to predict COVID-19 vaccination intention using PMT, coronavirus conspiracy beliefs, and demographic factors. Furthermore, vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals were compared in relation to their coronavirus conspiracy beliefs.

An online survey was administered to 382 (278 vaccinated, and 104 unvaccinated) individuals in the United Kingdom (77 males, 301 females, one non-binary/third gender, and three unstated). Respondents’ mean age was 43.78 (SD = 12.58).

A hierarchical multiple linear regression was performed in three stages. Initially, four PMT constructs - severity, susceptibility, maladaptive response costs, and self-efficacy - emerged as significant predictors of COVID-19 vaccination intention. The final model accounted for 75% of the variance and retained two significant predictors from PMT - maladaptive response rewards and self-efficacy - alongside coronavirus conspiracy beliefs and age. An independent t-test established that unvaccinated individuals held greater coronavirus conspiracy beliefs than vaccinated ones.

Interventions and campaigns addressing COVID-19 vaccine acceptance should employ strategies increasing individuals’ perceived severity of COVID-19, perceived susceptibility, and perceived ability to get vaccinated, while decreasing perceived rewards of not getting vaccinated. Additionally, coronavirus conspiracy beliefs should be addressed, as these appear to play a role for some vaccine-hesitant individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2021


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