New link identified between privacy regulations and vaccine hesitancy


The COVID-19 vaccine roll-out was the primary mechanism by which the pandemic was addressed, preventing millions of hospitalizations and deaths. However, despite the vaccine’s high efficacy rate, around 22 percent of U.S. citizens remain unvaccinated. Why does this hesitancy remain?

Research from Idris Adjerid, associate professor in the Department of Business Information Technology at Pamplin College of Business, finds that anxiety over the amount of personal information an individual is required to share when receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the main factors accounting for vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. This appears to be higher among minority groups or those with privacy concerns.

Adjerid’s inquiries centre on the legal requirements on consumer behaviour, privacy protections, the value of data to companies, and different aspects of privacy regulations.

From this area of interest, Adjerid sought to examine how some privacy regulations were impacting the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine. The focus was with the interplay between two types of laws: One increases privacy concerns while the other one decreases them.

The first regulation examined was a mandate that individuals are required to show some type of personal identification, such as a driver’s licence, when they arrive for their vaccine. This information is then stored in a state immunization registry system.

It is noted that such identification requirements disadvantage people from minorities and poorer communities. There are additional concerns with people who are worried about being deported. According to the research, these identification requirements, along with the storing and sharing of that data, have caused privacy concerns for the general public as well.

With an average population of over four million people in states with identification requirements, Adjerid’s research finds that identification requirements decreased the state’s vaccination rate by 4.87 percent, resulting in an average of 215,557 fewer vaccinations per state.

The second type of regulation offers a more optimistic view of how adopting certain digital protections can help offset the negative outcome of ID requirements. Described as “anonymity protections”, by allowing individuals to remove personal information from registries, the tendency is for vaccination uptake to be improved while addressing the need for privacy.

The research does not seek to discount the importance of identification requirements for improving public health programmes to help make decisions around policy; however, it does demonstrate that adopting certain protections, such as anonymity protections, can help improve things like vaccine rates by easing privacy concerns.

The research appears in the journal Management Science titled “Privacy Regulation and Barriers to Public Health.”

New link identified between privacy regulations and vaccine hesitancy

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