Voluntary compliance may be reduced if vaccination is required

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Citizen opposition to COVID-19 vaccination has emerged around the world, leading to mandatory vaccination policies. But a new study based on evidence from Germany and a model of the dynamic nature of people’s resistance to COVID-19 vaccination raises an alarm: forcing vaccination can have a substantial negative impact on voluntary compliance. .

Now most countries favor compulsory vaccination. In March, the Galician government in Spain forced vaccinations on adults and subjected the offenders to substantial fines. Italy has forced vaccinations on care workers. The systems at the University of California and California State University announced in late April that vaccination would be needed for anyone attending in the fall.

The research, published in the week Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), extends to an earlier version PNAS study by first author Katrin Schmelz, a psychologist and behavioral economist at the University of Konstanz, which documents that an important source of hesitation is distrust of the government. He found that forced vaccinations reduce people’s desire to be vaccinated, especially among those with low levels of trust in public institutions.

In the new study, Schmelz and economist Samuel Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute exploit a large panel survey implemented in Germany during the first and second waves of the pandemic. Although infections in Germany are 15 times more common in the second wave of both the pandemic and the survey, the researchers observed an increase in opposition when they asked participants a hypothetical question about how they would respond if required. vaccinations legally (the German government publicly agrees not to require vaccines). In contrast, there was a higher level of support and no decrease for voluntary vaccines that are now in place.

The authors also draw on evidence of the dynamics of diffusion of new products and technologies such as televisions and washing machines in the last century. They argue that because those who doubt or oppose vaccination see other people getting vaccinated, they might change their minds. Learning from other people’s vaccination decisions, “conformism” in psychology, means that even if the initial hesitation of vaccination is substantial, as more are vaccinated, it is possible to reach a goal of herd immunity without binding vaccines.

They also use from behavioral economics that demonstrates that explicit incentives, whether in the form of carrots or sticks, can eliminate intrinsic or ethical motives. Policies that aim to encourage desired behavior, such as getting vaccinated, can underestimate the sense of the moral or ethical obligations of individuals to do the right thing.

This is evident in their data. Forcing by law to vaccinate directly reduces the desire to be vaccinated. Its model also suggests an adverse indirect effect: application will reduce the extent to which other vaccinators will induce vaccine vacillators to be willing, as this leads to a weaker signal. Schmelz says that “People’s behavior when getting vaccinated will be affected by its application in two ways: it could eliminate pro-vaccine feelings and reduce the positive effect of conformity if vaccination is voluntary.”

Bowles says this should be a precaution for governments considering mandatory policies: “Costly mistakes can be avoided if policymakers think carefully about the costs of implementation. These could not only increase opposition to vaccination, but they would also increase social conflicts by further alienating citizens from government or the scientific and medical elites, ”he says. Still, he says government enforcement “may be necessary even if the number to be vaccinated is insufficient to control the pandemic.”

Schmelz concludes: “Our findings are broad applicability beyond COVID-19. There are many cases where voluntary compliance by citizens with a policy is essential because state compliance capabilities are limited and because outcomes may depend on how the policies themselves alter citizens ’beliefs and preferences,“ adding that ”. .. examples include policies to promote lifestyle changes to reduce carbon footprints or to maintain tolerance and mutual respect in a heterogeneous society. ”


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More information:
“Overcoming vaccination resistance to COVID-19 when alternative policies affect the dynamics of conformity, social norms, and exclusion,” PNAS (2021). DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.2104912118 , www.pnas.org/content/118/25/e2104912118

Provided by
Santa Fe Institute


Citation: Compulsory vaccination could reduce voluntary compliance (2021, June 7) recovered on June 7, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-mandating-vaccination-voluntary-compliance.html

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