Individual preferences for voluntary vs. mandatory vaccination policies: An experimental analysis

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More and more countries are discussing the introduction of mandatory vaccination policies. Yet, little is known about individuals’ actual preferences for voluntary vs. mandatory vaccination policies, and the psychological processes underlying such preferences. Objective of the present research was to investigate the development of individual preferences for voluntary and mandatory vaccination policies.

We conducted a controlled laboratory study (N = 168) using a repeated interactive vaccination game with decision-contingent monetary incentives. In each round, participants decided in favour of either a voluntary or a mandatory vaccination policy, followed by the vaccination decision (voluntary policy) or vaccination (mandatory policy) which both resulted in actual (financial) consequences.

We observe large heterogeneity in participants’ preferences for the voluntary vs. mandatory policy. Under voluntary vaccination, the preference for the mandatory policy increased with decreasing vaccination rates (and increasing risk of infection). In contrast, experiencing vaccine-adverse events under mandatory vaccination increased the preference for the voluntary policy. The latter effect was larger for individuals with a negative (vs. positive) attitude toward vaccination. Overall, as individuals gathered experiences under both the voluntary and the mandatory policy, the preference for voluntary vaccination policy increased over time.

Individuals are more willing to accept mandatory vaccination policies when vaccination rates are low. In the long run, the occurrence of vaccine-adverse events may spark opposition to mandatory vaccination.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)50-55
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ID: 241307927