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Herd immunity and a vaccination game: An experimental study

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  • Wooyoung Lim
  • Pengfei Zhang

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Wooyoung Lim & Pengfei Zhang, 2020. "Herd immunity and a vaccination game: An experimental study," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(5), pages 1-16, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:plo:pone00:0232652
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0232652
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