Vaccine-hesitant individuals accumulate additional COVID-19 risk due to divergent perception and behaviors related to SARS-CoV-2 testing – a population based, cross-sectional study

Purpose To investigate the perception of SARS-CoV-2 detection methods, information sources, and opinions on appropriate behavior after receiving negative or positive test results. Methods In a questionnaire-based, cross-sectional study conducted between September 1 and November 17, 2021, epidemiological, behavioral, and COVID-19-related data was acquired from the public in Munich, Germany. Results Most of the 1,388 participants obtained information from online media (82.8%) as well as state and federal authorities (80.3%). 93.4% believed in the accuracy of SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing and 41.2% in the accuracy of rapid antigen tests (RATs). However, RATs were preferred for testing (59.1%) over PCR (51.1%). 24.0 % of all individuals were willing to ignore hygiene measures and 76.9% were less afraid of SARS-CoV-2 transmission after receiving a negative PCR test (5.9% and 48.8% in case of a negative RAT). 28.8% reported not to self-isolate after receiving a positive RAT. Multivariate analyses revealed that non-vaccinated individuals relied less on information from governmental authorities (p=0.0004) and more on social media (p=0.0216), disbelieved in the accuracy of the PCR test (p≤0.0001) while displaying strong preference towards using RATs (p≤0.0001), were more willing to abandon pandemic-related hygiene measures (p≤0.0001), less afraid of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 after a negative RAT (p≤0.0001), and less likely to isolate after a positive RAT (p≤0.0001). Conclusion Insights into preferred information sources as well as perception, preferences and behavior related to SARS-CoV-2 testing and hygiene measures are key to refining public health information and surveillance campaigns. Non-vaccinated individuals’ divergent believes and behaviors possibly increase their COVID-19 risk.

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