How Rational is the Reluctance to be Vaccinated Against COVID-19? An Economic Approach

Carlos Contreras, Julio Angulo


This paper considers a static game in which a player makes a decision in the first moment of whether or not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and then nature acts. In making the decision the player takes into consideration expected costs and benefits of being inoculated in terms of income. The relative speed with which the first vaccines have reached the market has caused some parts of the population to be concerned about the possible side effects of vaccination and, as a result, a part of the population is reluctant to take the vaccine. The papers finds that according to statistics on the pandemic’s evolution and certain assumptions about the likelihood of virus sequelae and vaccine side-effects, the decision to be vaccinated appears to be optimal. Low probability of contagion and a very low vaccine effectiveness rate are needed to make the decision to be vaccinated non-optimal.


Key words: COVID-19, vaccination, probability of contagion, sequelae, side effects.

JEL Classifications: D91, I120, I180

Full Text:



Barrett, Scott. 2003. “Global Disease Eradication”, Journal of the European Economic Association, 1(2-3): 591-600.

Bauch, Chris T. and David J. Earn. 2004. “Vaccination and the theory of games”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,101: 13391–13394.

Brito, Dagobert L., Eytan Sheshinski and Michael D. Intriligator. 1991. “Externalities and Compulsory Vaccinations”, Journal of Public Economics, 45(1): 69-90.

Chen, Frederik H. 2006. “A Susceptible-Infected Epidemic Model with Voluntary Vaccinations”, Journal of Mathematical Biology, 53(2): 253-272.

Chen, Frederik H. and Allin Cottrell. 2009. “Dynamic Equilibria in an Epidemic Model with Voluntary Vaccinations”, Journal of Biological Dynamics, 3(4): 357-375.

D’Onofrio, Alberto, Piero Manfredi and Piero Poletti. 2012. “The Interplay of Public Intervention and Private Choices in Determining the Outcome of Vaccination Programmes”. Available in //

Fenichel, Eli P. and Xiaoxia Wang. 2013. “The mechanism and phenomenon of adaptive human behavior during an epidemic and the role of information”, in D’Onofrio, Alberto and Piero Manfredi, (Eds.) Modeling the Interplay between Human Behavior and Spread of Infectious Diseases. Springer: 153-170.

Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología (FECYT). 2021. Evolución de la percepción social de aspectos científicos de la COVID-19.

Galeotti, Andrea and Brian W. Rogers. 2013. “Immunizations and Group Structure”, American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, 5(2): 1-32.

Geoffard, Pierre-Yves and Tomas Philipson. 1997. “Disease Eradication: Private versus Public Vaccination”, American Economic Review, 87 (1): 222-230.

Hansen, Elsa and Troy J. Day. 2011. “Optimal Control of Epidemics with Limited Resources”, Journal of Mathematical Biology, 62(3): 423-451.

Heal, Geoffrey and Howard Kunreuther. 2005. “The Vaccination Game”, mimeo.

Hethcote, Herbert W. and Paul Waltman. 1973. “Optimal Vaccination Schedules in a Deterministic Epidemic Model”, Mathematical Biosciences, 18(3-4): 365-381.

Ibuka, Yoko, Meng Li, Jeffrey Vietri, Gretchen B. Chapman and Alison, P. Galvani. 2014. “Free-Riding Behavior in Vaccination Decisions: An Experimental Study”, PLOS ONE 9(1): e87164.

Ipsos MORI .2020b. “Global attitudes: COVID-19 vaccines” KnowledgePanel®, Enero.

Ipsos MORI .2021. “Uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine” KnowledgePanel®, Marzo.

Kermack, William O. and A. G. McKendrick. 1927. “A contribution to the mathematical theory of epidemics”, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Containing Papers of a Mathematical and Physical Character, 115 (772): 700-721.

King’s College London. 2020. Coronavirus uncertainties: vaccines, symptoms and contested claims, The Police Institute and Ipsos MORI. Julio.

Kureishi, Wataru. 2009. “Partial Vaccination Programs and the Eradication of Infectious Diseases”, Economics Bulletin, 29(4): 2758-2769.

McKinsey & Companiy. 2020. “Why would you be likely or unlikely to get a COVID-19 vaccine?” in How Americans feel about COVID-19 vaccinations.

Medlock, Jan, Paula M. Luz, Claudio J. Struchiner and Alison O. Galvani. 2009. “The Impact of Transgenic Mosquitoes on Dengue Virulence to Humans and Mosquitoes”, American Naturalist, 174(4), 565-77.

Harrinson, Matthew, David Risinger, Kostas Biliouris, Zhen Zeng and Thomas Chiu. 2020. “COVID19: We have a vaccine, how long will it take to end the pandemic? Morgan Stanley Research.

Manfredi, Piero and Alberto D'Onofrio. 2013. Modeling the interplay between human behavior and the spread of infectious diseases). Springer.

Morton, R. and K. H. Wickwire. 1974. “On the Optimal Control of a Deterministic Epidemic”, Advances in Applied Probability, 6(4): 622-635.

Reluga, Timothy C., Chris T. Bauch and Alison P. Galvani. 2006. “Evolving public perceptions and stability in vaccine uptake”, Mathematical Biosciences, 204, (2): 185-198.

Sadique, Zia, John W. Edmunds, Nancy Devlin and David Parkin. 2005. “Understanding Individuals Decisions about Vaccination: A Comparison between Expected Utility and Regret Theory Models”, City University Economics Discussion Papers # 05/03.

The Economist. 2020. “Why is Europe so riddled with vaccine scepticism?” 10th December.

Vardavas, Raffaelo, Romulus Breban and Sally Blower. 2007. “Can Influenza Epidemics Be Prevented by Voluntary Vaccination?” PLOS Computational Biology, 3:1-7.

Veliov, Vladimir. 2008. “Optimal Control of Heterogeneous Systems: Basic Theory”, Journal of Mathematical Analysis and Applications, 346(1): 227-242.

Waldmeir, Patti. 2021. “Vaccine skepticism cuts across political lines in the US”, Financial Times, 2nd March.

Xu, Xiaopeng. 1999. “Technological Improvements in Vaccine Efficacy and Individual Incentive to Vaccinate”, Economics Letters, 65(3): 359-364.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Carlos Contreras

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.