Educational efforts do little to boost vaccine adherence, but behavioral incentives help

Campaigns designed to educate the public about the importance of vaccination are not likely to improve immunization rates, according to a study published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.


For the study, researchers sought to determine the efficacy of educational efforts designed to persuade individuals to get vaccinated, which health departments often launch in communities with waning immunization rates. The team examined hundreds of previous studies on psychology, behavioral science and vaccinations for their assessment.

Researchers determined efforts to educate and persuade individuals to get vaccinated are largely ineffective. However, efforts designed to modify behavior indirectly — such as automatically scheduled vaccination appointments, text reminders and monetary incentives from employers — can have a positive influence on vaccination adherence. One experiment cited in the study documented a 4 percent rise in employee flu shot adherence when a company prompted staff to document the date and time they would receive a flu shot.

"Four percent may not mean that much, but in the world of vaccinations, it can be huge," Noel Brewer, PhD, a professor in the department of health behavior at University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health in Chapel Hill and the study's lead author, told The Washington Post. "When it comes to vaccines, I think we have this optimistic belief that just by telling people facts you can change their behavior. But when was the last time someone told you one fact, and suddenly you lost five pounds or started brushing your teeth?'

To read the study, click here.

To read the Post's coverage, click here.

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