Effect of COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategies on Vaccination Refusal: A National Survey

Currently, one of the most pressing public health challenges is encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Due to limited supplies, some people have had to wait for the COVID-19 vaccine. Consumer research has suggested that people who are overlooked in initial distribution of desired goods may no longer be interested. Here, we therefore examined people’s preferences for proposed vaccine allocation strategies, as well as their anticipated responses to being overlooked. After health-care workers, most participants preferred prioritizing vaccines for high-risk individuals living in group-settings (49%) or with families (29%). We also found evidence of reluctance if passed over. After random assignment to vaccine allocation strategies that would initially overlook them, 37% of participants indicated that they would refuse the vaccine. The refusal rate rose to 42% when the vaccine allocation strategy prioritized people in areas with more COVID-19 – policies that were implemented in many areas. Even among participants who did not self-identify as vaccine hesitant, 22% said they would not want the vaccine in that case. Logistic regressions confirmed that vaccine refusal would be largest if vaccine allocation strategies targeted people who live in areas with more COVID-19 infections. In sum, once people are overlooked by vaccine allocation, they may no longer want to get vaccinated, even if they were not originally vaccine hesitant. Vaccine allocation strategies that prioritize high-infection areas and high-risk individuals in group-settings may enhance these concerns.

A press release about the study is available here. The full study is available in Journal of Risk Research.