Berlin The vaccination campaign by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) is not getting off the ground – despite a budget in the millions for posters and commercials. An average of around 55,000 people per day are currently being vaccinated against the corona virus, compared to almost ten times as many a year ago. About 13 percent of people have been vaccinated a fourth time.
When and why people get vaccinated, researchers have investigated particularly intensively during the corona pandemic. A research team from the Mannheim ZEW Institute and the American Cornell University used last year’s vaccination campaign to analyze how willingness to be vaccinated can be increased. The Handelsblatt was able to view the results in advance.
For their study, the researchers asked around 550 fully vaccinated people in December 2021 whether and under what conditions they would opt for a booster. Although the study was carried out in the USA, the authors also use it to make statements about the current German vaccination campaign, with a few exceptions.
Because the decisive parameters are quite comparable. These include the good availability of the vaccine and the highly contagious but milder variants that are circulating, to which Omikron belongs then as now. “The basic environment has not changed,” said co-author and ZEW researcher Nicolas Ziebarth in an interview with the Handelsblatt.
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In essence, the researchers found three factors that positively influence the willingness of the population to use boosters. A crucial factor is the manufacturer of the vaccine. “Biontech/Pfizer had an advantage,” says Ziebarth. 68 percent of those surveyed would opt for a booster from the company from Mainz, and only 63 percent for such a vaccination with Moderna.
Corona: If the booster vaccination is particularly effective, more people can be vaccinated
Another factor that respondents seem to attach great importance to is the effectiveness of the vaccine. With a vaccine that reduces the risk of symptomatic disease progression by 90 percent, 73 percent of those surveyed are ready for a booster. With a hypothetical effectiveness of 50 percent, it is not even every second person.
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“It is therefore important to emphasize the effectiveness of the vaccine at every opportunity from the political side and also in the campaign,” says Ziebarth. This is not clearly recognizable in the current campaign. In short clips, people can be seen explaining why they are getting vaccinated. “It relies on identification, but not necessarily on facts,” says the researcher.
In addition, the authors wanted to know whether the willingness to use boosters can be increased with financial incentives. “For a payment of ten dollars, 53 percent of those surveyed would agree to a booster vaccination,” says Ziebarth. For a payment of $100 it would already be 61 percent and for $1000 it would be 69 percent.
In practice, however, cash payments could have negative consequences for the coming year if booster vaccinations became useful and necessary again, according to Ziebarth. Citizens might then expect money again. That couldn’t be sustained in the long run. Rewards like food or drinks would be better, similar to donating blood.
Apparently, it made no difference whether a vaccine offered protection against future variants or not. “The respondents assume that they will be vaccinated once a year anyway – similar to the flu,” said Ziebarth.
That’s why he doesn’t see any fundamental difference between people having to opt for a first booster shot like they did a year ago or a second booster shot like this year. There are differences, for example in the recommendation of the Standing Vaccination Commission, which only recommends a second booster for people over 70 and at risk. “But the factors that influence the decision remain: manufacturer, effectiveness and financial incentive,” said Ziebarth.
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