Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Lund University, Department of Economics

No 2020:29: Anticipation of COVID-19 Vaccines Reduces Social Distancing

Ola Andersson (), Pol Campos-Mercade (), Armando N. Meier () and Erik Wengström ()
Additional contact information
Ola Andersson: Department of Economics, Uppsala University
Pol Campos-Mercade: Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen
Armando N. Meier: University of Lausanne
Erik Wengström: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: We show that the anticipation of COVID-19 vaccines reduces voluntary social distancing. In a large-scale preregistered survey experiment with a representative sample, we study whether providing information about the safety, effectiveness, and availability of COVID-19 vaccines affects compliance with public health guidelines. We find that vaccine information reduces peoples' voluntary social distancing, adherence to hygiene guidelines, and their willingness to stay at home. Vaccine information induces people to believe in a swifter return to normal life and puts their vigilance at ease. The results indicate an important behavioral drawback of the successful vaccine development: An increased focus on vaccines can lead to bad health behaviors and accelerate the spread of the virus. The results imply that, as vaccinations start and the end of the pandemic feels closer, existing policies aimed at increasing social distancing will be less effective and stricter policies might be required.

Keywords: Economic epidemiology; social distancing; vaccination; information

JEL-codes: D83; D91; I12; I18

22 pages, December 30, 2020

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