Discussion paper

DP16791 When Reality Bites: Local Deaths and Vaccine Take-Up

In this study, we investigate whether COVID-19 deaths that occurred before vaccination rollouts impact subsequent vaccination take-ups. We used data on local vaccination rates and COVID-19-related deaths from England measured at high geographic granularity. We found that vaccination take-up as of November 2021 was positively associated with pre-vaccine COVID-19-related deaths, controlling for demographic, economic, and health-related characteristics of the localities, while including geographic fixed effects. In addition, the share of ethnic minorities in a locality was negatively associated with vaccination rates, and that localities with a larger share of ethnic minorities increased their vaccination rates if they get exposed to more COVID-related-deaths. Further evidence on vaccination intention at the individual level from a representative sample corroborated these patterns. Overall, our evidence suggests that social proximity to victims of the disease triggers a desire to take protective measures against it.


Giulietti, C, M Vlassopoulos and Y Zenou (2021), ‘DP16791 When Reality Bites: Local Deaths and Vaccine Take-Up‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16791. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16791