Nudges: a promising behavioral public policy tool to reduce vaccine hesitancy

Alejandro Hortal


Although vaccines are considered an efficient public health tool by medical experts, in different countries, people’s confidence in them has been decreasing. COVID-19 has elevated medical scientists’ and practitioners’ social reputation, and it may have reduced global vaccination hesitancy. Still, this alone will not altogether remove the existent frictions that prevent people from complying with vaccination schedules. This paper will review the common causes behind vaccination hesitancy. It will also explore different types of public policy interventions that health experts in governments and institutions employ to fight vaccine hesitancy and non-compliance. The main objective of this article is to argue that, considering the nature of the issue (vaccine hesitancy and its causes), among the various possibilities, policies based on behavioral insights can provide an effective instrument to remove those frictions. Among them, special attention will be devoted to nudges which promise efficiency while avoiding some of the ethical and political costs of other interventions, thanks to their libertarian paternalistic frame. The article concludes by suggesting that public health policymakers should consider the libertarian paternalistic approach of nudges when deploying interventions that aim at changing people’s attitudes and behavior.


Vaccine Hesitancy, Nudge Theory, Public Health, Decision Theory, Behavioral Public Policy, Libertarian Paternalism

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