In the early stages of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, chloroquine and its derivatives such as hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) were widely commented upon both within the scientific community and in the media. This paper explores the different factors that influenced public perceptions in France of the efficacy of HCQ as well as their evolution between April 2020 and June 2021.
This article draws on 5 surveys conducted among representative samples of the French population (projects COCONEL and TRACTRUST; quota method, n=1006; 1004; 2006; 1014 and 1005). We asked questions on the effectiveness of chloroquine against COVID-19. We also collected sociodemographic variables and attitudes toward politics and science.
Between April and June 2021, the proportion of respondents who believed in the efficacy of HCQ decreased rapidly from 35% to 14%. The proportion of respondents who believed that HCQ is ineffective rose gradually from 6% to 21%. After adjusting for the temporal effect, the logistic regression showed a very strong association between political orientation and the belief in the efficacy of HCQ. Respondents who felt closest to the more radical parties (far-right and far-left) were more likely to believe in the efficacy of HCQ than those who felt closest to the political center (O.R. 2.48 [1.95–3.15] and 1.87 [1.44–2.43]). The role of trust in the government and in science and of the degree of political engagement were investigated in the two waves conducted after the scientific consensus was established during the summer of 2020. High levels of trust in the government and in science and of politicization are associated with belief of HCQ proven inefficacy. Across the whole period, a majority of respondents were uncertain. Even in 2021, 41.5% stated that the data were insufficient to decide whether or not HCQ is effective and 25.2% stating that they did not know.
Because media coverage of scientific controversies is higher in times of uncertainty than after these controversies have died down, the publicization of therapeutic promises can have lasting consequences on attitudes towards science and medicine.Le texte complet de cet article est disponible en PDF.
Keywords : COVID-19, Chloroquine, Surveys, Public attitude, Sociology, Hydroxychloroquine