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How Can Vaccination Willingness Be Increased?

Covid-19: New study shows which strategies governments can use to achieve “herd immunity”

№ 087/2021 from May 10, 2021

Vaccinations are currently the most important and most promising instrument in the battle against the coronavirus. According to estimates, at least 60 to 70 percent of the population must be vaccinated in order to be able to stop the coronavirus pandemic. The latest surveys, however, indicate that this target will probably not be reached in many countries, since many people have concerns about being vaccinated or even reject vaccination altogether. This raises the issue as to which strategies governments can pursue to increase vaccination willingness in the population. A team of researchers from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU) and the Berlin Science Center for Social Research (WZB) – funded by the Cluster of Excellence Scripts, which is based at Freie Universität Berlin – experimentally tested the influence of various strategies on the willingness to be vaccinated. Three strategies were examined: giving back freedoms for vaccinated persons, financial incentives, and vaccinations given by primary care physicians.

To this end, 20,500 people across Germany were interviewed as part of a representative population survey.

The figures from the study make it clear that various strategies for increasing vaccination readiness could also be of great relevance in Germany.

Only about 67 percent of those questioned are willing to be vaccinated or have already been vaccinated. Another 17 percent are undecided and 16 percent completely refuse a vaccination.

The results of the survey experiment indicate that all three strategies examined (giving back freedoms for vaccinated persons, financial incentives, and vaccinations from primary care physicians) are able to increase individuals’ willingness to be vaccinated.

In particular, within the group of those undecided, the willingness to be vaccinated can be increased noticeably. Each of the three strategies can increase the willingness to be vaccinated by around five percentage points, in combination even up to 13 percentage points. On the other hand, the three strategies hardly show any effect in the group of those who oppose vaccination.

In addition, it can be observed that the three strategies work differently for different population groups. While the willingness of older respondents can be increased by vaccinations administered by the primary care physician, younger respondents are more likely to be convinced by the prospect of more freedom.

A financial incentive can also noticeably increase an individual’s willingness to be vaccinated, whereby the amount of the payment plays a role. A effect can only be seen if the amount is sufficiently high (50 euros), while a sum that is too small (25 euros) has little effect.


With suitable strategies, governments can markedly increase the willingness of the population to be vaccinated. In the near future, this increase could become a decisive component when it comes to vaccinating enough citizens to be able to establish herd immunity and stop the coronavirus pandemic.

Further Information

The study was funded by the Cluster of Excellence Scripts (“Contestations of the Liberal Script”), one of the seven Berlin Clusters of Excellence funded by the German federal and state governments as part of the Excellence Strategy. Read more about Scripts


Klüver, H., Hartmann, F., Humphreys, M., Geissler, F., & Giesecke, J. (2021, May 9). What incentives can spur Covid-19 vaccination uptake?. Retrieved from osf.io/ax6pw


Prof. Dr. Heike Klüver, Professor and Chair of Comparative Political Behavior, Institute of Social Sciences, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Email: heike.kluever@hu-berlin.de, www.heike-kluever.com, www.sowi.hu-berlin.de/en/lehrbereiche-en/comparative-political-behavior

Press Contact

Hans-Christoph Keller, Press Spokesperson, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Communications, Marketing, and Events, Email: hans-christoph.keller@hu-berlin.de, Tel.: +49 30 2093 12710, www.hu-berlin.de