Perceived Risk and Vaccine Hesitancy: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Italy
10 Pages Posted: 10 May 2021 Last revised: 14 Jun 2021
Date Written: April 16, 2021
We study the impact of vaccine hesitancy on the take up of the COVID-19 immunization campaign in Italy. Our empirical strategy exploits a quasi-experiment that occurred with the temporary suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine (AZ) in March 2021. Before the interruption, the AZ vaccination trend followed the same pattern as Pfizer-Biontech (PB). We document that, after the suspension was lifted, injections of the two vaccines started to diverge, with AZ following a declining pattern relative to PB. This divergence led to the loss of approximately 662,760 doses in the first three weeks following the suspension, resulting in a severe delay in Italy's immunization program. Using Google search data, we then show that the persistence in the AZ slowdown was likely driven by vaccine hesitancy. After authorities resumed the roll-out of the vaccine, the gap between AZ and PB inoculation rates became greater in regions displaying higher concerns for the vaccine's side effects.
Keywords: COVID-19; Vaccine; Google Searches
JEL Classification: I12; I18; L82; L86
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation