Hesitancy Towards a COVID-19 Vaccine and Prospects for Herd Immunity

51 Pages Posted: 11 May 2020 Last revised: 2 Jul 2020

See all articles by Linda Thunstrom

Linda Thunstrom

University of Wyoming

Madison Ashworth

University of Wyoming

David Finnoff

University of Wyoming

Stephen Newbold

University of Wyoming - College of Business - Department of Economics and Finance

Date Written: June 30, 2020

Abstract

The scientific community has come together in an unprecedented effort to find a COVID-19 vaccine. However, the success of any vaccine depends on the share of the population that gets vaccinated. We design a survey experiment in which a nationally representative sample of 3,133 adults in the U.S. state their intentions to vaccinate themselves and their children for COVID-19. In the experiment, we account for uncertainty about the severity and infectiousness of COVID-19, as well as inconsistencies in risk communication from government authorities, by varying these factors across treatments. We find that 20% of people in the U.S. would decline the vaccine. General vaccine hesitancy (including not having had a flu shot in the last two years), distrust of vaccine safety, and vaccine novelty are among the most important deterrents to vaccination. Further, our results suggest that inconsistent risk messages from public health experts and elected officials reduce vaccine uptake. We use our survey results in an epidemiological model to explore conditions under which a vaccine could achieve herd immunity. We find that in a middle-of-the-road scenario with central estimates of model parameters, a vaccine will benefit public health by saving many lives but nevertheless may fail to achieve herd immunity.

Note: Funding: This study was funded by a grant from the College of Business Excellence Fund at University of Wyoming.

Conflict of Interest: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval: This study was approved by the IRB at University of Wyoming and was pre-registered in the AEA RCT registry (RCT ID: AEARCTR-0005576).

Suggested Citation

Thunstrom, Linda and Ashworth, Madison and Finnoff, David and Newbold, Stephen, Hesitancy Towards a COVID-19 Vaccine and Prospects for Herd Immunity (June 30, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3593098 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3593098

Linda Thunstrom (Contact Author)

University of Wyoming ( email )

P.O. Box 3985
Laramie, WY 82071-3985
United States

Madison Ashworth

University of Wyoming ( email )

Box 3434 University Station
Laramie, WY 82070
United States

David Finnoff

University of Wyoming ( email )

1000 E University Ave
Laramie, WY 82071
United States

Stephen Newbold

University of Wyoming - College of Business - Department of Economics and Finance ( email )

P.O. Box 3985
Laramie, WY 82071-3985
United States

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