4 Types of COVID-19 Vaccination Attitudes

New research explores nuances in people's COVID-19 vaccine attitudes.

Posted Nov 07, 2020

Source: Pixnio

Scientists used to think of vaccination attitudes in terms of people who were "for" versus "against."

A new working paper published by a team of German scientists suggests that things may be more complicated as they relate to COVID-19.

Researchers led by Daniel Graeber of the German Institute for Economic Research contend that there are actually four types of COVID-19 vaccination attitudes: "anti-vaccination," "anti-duty," "free riders." and "pro-vaccination." They are described below.

  • Anti-vaccination describes people who would not get vaccinated voluntarily and who are also against a policy of mandatory vaccination.
  • Anti-duty refers to people who would get vaccinated voluntarily but are against a policy of mandatory vaccination.
  • Free riders describe people who would not get vaccinated voluntarily but are in favor of mandatory vaccination. “We refer to this group as free riders,” say the researchers, “because they apparently want to see the public good of herd immunity provided by mandatory vaccination, yet would not voluntarily contribute to this good.”
  • Pro-vaccination refers to people who would get vaccinated voluntarily and are also in favor of mandatory vaccination.

Analyzing data from a representative survey of German adults, the researchers found 22 percent of German adults to exist in the anti-vaxxer camp, 29 percent to be anti-duty, 8 percent to be free-riders, and 41 percent to espouse a pro-vaccine attitude.

“A vaccine is only an effective contribution to a return to normal life if a sufficiently high number of people are actually vaccinated, yielding herd immunity,” state the researchers. “This raises two fundamental questions: Would a sufficient number of people voluntarily undergo vaccination to achieve herd immunity? Or would a mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 be necessary to achieve herd immunity and what do people think about such a policy?”

According to their analysis, a sufficient number of German adults support voluntary vaccination, which would make a mandatory vaccination policy unnecessary. However, it is difficult to predict exactly how many people would follow through on their intentions to get a vaccine.

“In our survey, preferences were elicited in an ideal-typical situation: an effective and free-of-side effects vaccine is available for the entire population at zero cost,” state the authors. “An important question for future research is how actual vaccination behavior differs in a situation that deviates from this ideal-typical situation.”

The researchers next explored the demographic and psychological variables that were predictive of one’s stance on a COVID-19 vaccine. They state, “Almost 60 percent of the ‘anti-vaccination’ group are female, they are on average 48 years old, 12 percent of them have a university degree, and their monthly net household income in 2019 averaged just under EUR 2,800.” Members of the pro-vaccination group, on the other hand, tend to be older, male, and have a university degree.

From a psychological standpoint, the researchers found members of the anti-vaccination group to be more sociable and less open to new experiences than people in favor of vaccinations. Proponents of voluntary and mandatory vaccinations, on the other hand, scored lower on the personality trait of neuroticism.

Another question raised by this research is whether COVID-19 vaccine attitudes in Germany are indicative of attitudes in other parts of the world. So far, data suggests that the demand for a vaccine might be lower in the United States. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in September found that only 51 percent of Americans would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were available. It also showed this number had decreased over the past several months.


Graeber, Daniel and Schmidt-Petri, Christoph and Schroeder, Carsten, Attitudes on Voluntary and Mandatory Vaccination against COVID-19: Evidence from Germany (October 23, 2020). Available at SSRN