Free-Riding Behavior in Vaccination Decisions: An Experimental Study

PLoS One
[Accessed 25 January 2014]

Research Article
Free-Riding Behavior in Vaccination Decisions: An Experimental Study
Yoko Ibuka, Meng Li, Jeffrey Vietri, Gretchen B. Chapman, Alison P. Galvani
Published: January 24, 2014
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087164

Individual decision-making regarding vaccination may be affected by the vaccination choices of others. As vaccination produces externalities reducing transmission of a disease, it can provide an incentive for individuals to be free-riders who benefit from the vaccination of others while avoiding the cost of vaccination. This study examined an individual’s decision about vaccination in a group setting for a hypothetical disease that is called “influenza” using a computerized experimental game. In the game, interactions with others are allowed. We found that higher observed vaccination rate within the group during the previous round of the game decreased the likelihood of an individual’s vaccination acceptance, indicating the existence of free-riding behavior. The free-riding behavior was observed regardless of parameter conditions on the characteristics of the influenza and vaccine. We also found that other predictors of vaccination uptake included an individual’s own influenza exposure in previous rounds increasing the likelihood of vaccination acceptance, consistent with existing empirical studies. Influenza prevalence among other group members during the previous round did not have a statistically significant effect on vaccination acceptance