The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on College Students’ Vaccination Risk Perceptions and Decision-Making
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Widespread COVID-19 vaccination among college students is critical to reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 on campuses and within communities. Without mandates, however, some students remain unvaccinated. In this study I used semi-structed interviews to examine traditional (aged 18-23) college students’ decision making for COVID-19 vaccination. I found that risk perception—of both the vaccine and the disease— played a key role in students’ decisions, but that these perceptions were largely influenced by the social and cultural context, as the pandemic forced students to make health decisions alone for potentially the first time. In this thesis I consider how risk was actively avoided and how the liminality of both a pandemic and emerging adulthood impacted the way students accessed sources, formed their risk perceptions, and then made their vaccination choices.