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Herd immunity and a vaccination game: An experimental study

Wooyoung Lim () and Pengfei Zhang

PLOS ONE, 2020, vol. 15, issue 5, 1-16

Abstract: Would the affected communities voluntarily obtain herd immunity if a cure for COVID-19 was available? This paper experimentally investigates people’s vaccination choices in the context of a nonlinear public good game. A “vaccination game” is defined in which costly commitments (vaccination) are required of a fraction of the population to reach the critical level needed for herd immunity, without which defectors are punished by the natural contagion of epidemics. Our experimental implementation of a vaccination game in a controlled laboratory setting reveals that endogenous epidemic punishment is a credible threat, resulting in voluntary vaccination to obtain herd immunity, for which the orthodox principle of positive externalities fails to account. The concave nature of the infection probability plays a key role in facilitating the elimination of an epidemic.

Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0232652

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