Since COVID-19 vaccine uptake was found to be especially low among young adults, the present study investigated COVID-19 risk perception as predictor of COVID-19 vaccination intention and actual COVID-19 vaccine uptake among this age group. More specifically, it was tested whether cognitive risk perception predicts vaccination uptake successively via affective risk perception and vaccination intention. In total, 680 students (65.9% female) between 17 and 28 years participated in this longitudinal online study. COVID-19 cognitive and affective risk perception, COVID-19 vaccination intention, and actual COVID-19 vaccine uptake were measured in t1: November/December 2020, t2: March 2021, and t3: June/July 2021, respectively. The mediation analysis revealed a significant indirect effect of perceived severity at t1 on vaccine uptake at t3 via worry at t1 and vaccination intention at t2. Stronger perceptions of perceived severity of COVID-19 were related to more worry about COVID-19, which led to a higher vaccination intention, which, in turn, increased the chance of COVID-19 vaccine uptake. To increase vaccine uptake among young adults it might be fruitful to emphasize the severity of COVID-19. However, one should take into account that tapping into fear works best when messages also include efficacy statements.
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