Laura Brugger

Publication Date



As rates of vaccination have slowed, concerns are growing about how to increase vaccine uptake among those who are vaccine hesitant, particularly with the emergence of new and contagious variants such as Delta. Using our national Socioeconomic Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, we examine the predictors of vaccine hesitance in the U.S. and report on findings from an experiment assessing the potential impacts of vaccine incentive schemes.

Our study points to the difficulties in overcoming vaccine hesitance among the unvaccinated. Vaccine hesitance was common across income levels, and experience with COVID-19-related hardships—such as knowing someone who died of the disease or losing a job due to the pandemic—were not strongly correlated with a willingness to get the vaccine. Additionally, the main reasons respondents gave for not getting vaccinated included distrust of government and pharmaceutical companies. When examining strategies for improving vaccination rates, we found that while offering a vaccine free of cost was associated with a higher likelihood of vaccination, offering a small $5 incentive was associated with a lower likelihood of getting vaccinated. Further, offering a $100 incentive was not any more effective than offering the vaccine for free.

Several incentive strategies have been introduced recently to help encourage vaccine uptake. However, our results add to the body of research that suggests incentives may not be an effective strategy for the vaccine hesitant. While it has been challenging to identify and overcome the various reasons for vaccine hesitance, current efforts could be bolstered by developing a multi-faceted approach that targets underlying distrust and social beliefs held by those who are most hesitant.

Document Type

Research Brief

Original Citation

Brugger, Laura; Roll, Stephen; Kristensen, Katie; and Michal Grinstein-Weiss, “Vaccine hesitance during COVID-19: Exploring motivations and incentives,” (Nov, 2021). Social Policy Institute Research.



Vaccination, Vaccine hesitancy, COVID-19 vaccine, vaccine incentives