Incentivizing vaccine adherence: could it be the key to achieving herd immunity?

January 20, 2021

As the United States struggles to control record-breaking increases in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, the roll-out of two approved vaccines offers tremendous hope for saving lives and curbing the pandemic. To achieve success, however, experts estimate that at least 70 to 90 percent of the population must be inoculated to achieve herd immunity, but how can we ensure folks will voluntarily receive a vaccine?

Both vaccines require two injections. Pfizer-BioNTech's second dose must be given 21 days after the first and Moderna's second dose must be administered 28 days after the first. While public health and infectious disease experts have discussed strategies to enhance adherence, including the potential use of financial incentives, an examination of the scientific evidence on incentivizing vaccine adherence has not been discussed.

A new Commentary in Preventive Medicine by a team led by Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., director of the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health (VCBH) and professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont's (UVM) Larner College of Medicine, addresses that gap.

In their paper, Higgins and his VCBH research colleagues Elias Klemperer, Ph.D., and Sulamunn Coleman, Ph.D., describe results from several controlled trials that support the efficacy of incentivizing vaccine adherence. A strong example from their literature review focused on the impact of using incentive strategies to increase hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine adherence among injection drug users (IDUs). Individuals dependent on illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin often face barriers ranging from co-occurring medical conditions to socioeconomic instability, which can make adhering to preventive medical regimens highly challenging. The HBV vaccine entails a three-dose regimen (typically at 0, 1, and 6 months) which has created adherence challenges among IDUs.

Their systemic literature reviews found strong support for the use of incentives, including a 2019 meta-analysis of the literature showing that modest financial incentives resulted in a 7-fold increase in adherence compared to no incentives.

Higgins and his coauthors conclude "that financial incentives could be helpful in promoting the high levels of adherence to COVID-19 vaccines that experts project will be necessary for herd immunity."

Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to