Behavioural evidence on COVID-19 vaccine uptake

December 16, 2023

Public Health, Volume 227, February 2024, P.49-53

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The World Health Organization has declared that COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency of international concern. Nevertheless, it remains a public health issue, and seasonal vaccinations, at the same time of year as influenza vaccinations, will be necessary. When the first vaccines were administered in 2020, decision-makers had to make assumptions about the best methods to communicate and administer vaccines to increase uptake. Now, a body of evidence can inform these decisions.

Study design

A narrative review written by three behavioural scientists who design research for policy.


We searched the PubMed database for: (i) reviews of interventions to increase uptake of COVID-19 or influenza vaccines and (ii) empirical studies on uptake of COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. In addition, registered trials gathered by a Cochrane scoping review of interventions to increase uptake of COVID-19 vaccines were searched for updated results.


Results centre around two aspects of a vaccination campaign of interest to policymakers: communication and administration. Results suggest that communications highlighting the personal benefits of vaccination are likely to be more effective than those highlighting collective benefits. The efficacy of vaccination may be underestimated and stressing efficacy as a strong personal benefit may increase uptake. Keeping vaccines free, sending personalised messages, reminders and prebooked appointment times may also increase uptake.


There is now a body of evidence from behavioural science that suggests how vaccination campaigns for COVID-19 can be structured to increase uptake. These recommendations may be useful to policymakers considering seasonal vaccination campaigns and to researchers generating hypotheses for country-specific trials.