Manuel Hoffmann - Influenza Vaccines, Employee Health and Sickness Absence - A Field Experiment at the Workplace

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Title: Influenza Vaccines, Employee Health and Sickness Absence - A Field Experiment at the Workplace

Abstract: While flu vaccination increases individual immunity by generating antibodies, individual behavior can counter these benefits. Vaccination rates fall short of levels that could prevent costly epidemics, and moral hazard can counter the effectiveness of the vaccine. We study how economic factors affect the decision to vaccinate, and whether changes in behavior affect the effectiveness of the vaccine. We partnered with a bank in Ecuador that allowed us to experimentally modify its annual vaccination program. A rich dataset of administrative records and employee surveys allows us to discuss the mechanisms behind our results on both determinants and effectiveness of flu vaccination. We find that opportunity costs play an important role in vaccine take-up. Take-up doubles by assigning employees to get the flu shot during a workday compared to Saturday. Peers’ take-up also increases individual take-up in a meaningful way. With respect to the effectiveness of the vaccine, while the time-exact data shows there is a negative correlation between getting a flu shot and cases of flu-related illnesses, the effect of exogenous vaccination is a precise zero. We present evidence consistent with a change towards riskier behavior that suggests that vaccinated individuals expose themselves more to the virus, and rule out other potential mechanisms.

Presenter: Manuel Hoffmann, Department of Economics, Texas A&M University​

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