This article was authored by Damien de Walque and Victor Orozco and originally appeared on the World Bank Blog. Below is an excerpt.
Increasing vaccine access globally is a priority to end the COVID-19 pandemic faster. However, the vaccination push will only be successful if people take the jab. It is known from the roll-out in high income countries that vaccine hesitancy is a significant barrier for vaccine take up and there is evidence building that similar attitudes are prevalent in many developing countries.
The standard approach to reduce vaccine hesitancy is the deployment of mass communication and community engagement. Those are clearly important tools to convey reliable information and strengthen confidence among the population, but it might be useful to build more strongly on behavioral insights to increase vaccine take-up. After all, people don’t always take the most rational decision for their health. Our research suggest entertainment media and lotteries are scalable, low-cost and tested innovations worth considering in the COVID-19 response.
Edutainment and Social Media
Edutainment, short for entertainment education, is the placement of public health messages in mainstream entertainment. Edutainment formats can reach individuals at a deeper level, while info-only campaigns often can’t. The World Bank study of the television drama MTV Shuga finds that program immersion and emotional connections with characters were important mechanisms driving the large impacts of this show on HIV and gender-based violence knowledge, attitudes and behaviors.
People regularly inflate small probability events, a behavioral bias that lotteries rely on. In rich countries, many authorities are experimenting with incentives for COVID-19 vaccinations: free beer, doughnuts or even cash. Cash incentives are likely not affordable in middle and low-income countries. But lottery incentives conditional on vaccination uptake might be feasible.
Vaccine hesitancy has proved to be difficult to tame and out-of-the box strategies will be needed to reduce it. Rigorous research suggest that working with celebs and providing lottery tickets may be among such strategies.