| 28.01.2021

Anticipation of covid-19 vaccines reduces social distancing

Providing information about effectiveness and availability of vaccines reduce engagement in social distancing and good hygiene routines. This is shown by a new research study where Hanken School of Economics participated.

In the study, a group of participants received information about the effectiveness of the new vaccines and about the start of vaccinations. The participants then answered questions about how they will behave in the future, including whether they will avoid social contacts and travel. The participants in a control group answered the same questions, but without first receiving the vaccine information. The results are striking: Those who received information about the vaccines stated to a much lesser extent that they will follow recommendations and refrain from social contacts and travel.

– The study shows an important behavioral reverse of the successful vaccine development. Increased focus on the vaccine can lead to poor health behaviors and accelerate the spread of the virus, says Erik Wengström professor of Economics, working at Lund University and Hanken School of Economics.

– One potential explanation is that people become more optimistic and relaxed as a result of the positive vaccine news. This seems to reduce their alertness and tendency to follow recommendations. The results indicate that when the vaccinations start and the end of the pandemic feels closer, existing measures aimed at social distancing may become less effective and stricter restrictions might be required, says Wengström.

Over 1 600 Swedes were interviewed for the study in December 2020. The study was carried out by researchers from Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki, Lund University, Uppsala University, University of Copenhagen and University of Lausanne.

The entire study can be read here: https://swopec.hhs.se/lunewp/abs/lunewp2020_029.htm

For more information:
Erik Wengström
Distinguished Senior Fellow, Hanken School of Economics
Professor in Economics, Lund University
E-mail: erik.wengstrom@hanken.fi