Why Vaccinations Are Underutilized – and How Behavioral Science Can Help

How Behavioral Science Can Help fore most effective public health interventions


Vaccination is one of the most effective public health interventions of our time. Each year, vaccination prevents 2.5 million deaths in children under age five. For older adults, vaccines reduce heart attack, pneumonia, ICU admissions, and death. Beyond disease prevention, vaccination leads to increased school attendance, reduced work absenteeism, a better-educated population, and decreased antimicrobial resistance.

Despite the wide availability of vaccines, vaccine-preventable diseases are still leading causes of death globally. In many cases, the problem of undervaccination is not simply a problem of access, but rather a problem of behavior.

Although media attention overwhelmingly focuses on ‘anti-vaxxers,’ false beliefs are only a small part of the problem. In many cases, the context and our psychology lead us to take actions not in our favor. For instance, barriers of time, convenience, the complexity of vaccine schedules, and the psychological experience of pain all pose obstacles. As a society, we simply haven’t designed systems that make vaccination easy or that address these barriers.

To learn more about our approach, research hypotheses, and potential experiments, download our white paper, Increasing Vaccination: A Behavioral Science Approach. Check back on our website for more updates about this project.