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The impact of the 1918 influenza pandemic on vaccination attitudes and vaccination behavior
Room 354 (main building)
Prof. Lukas Schmid
Full Professor of Empirical Methods at the University of Lucerne
How do societies respond to an epidemic in terms of their vaccination attitudes and their vaccination behavior? To answer this question, we link over mortality during the 1918 influenza pandemic to the political support of compulsory vaccination and to real vaccination behavior before and after the pandemic. For vaccination attitudes, we document that a 1% higher mortality during the 1918 influenza pandemic reduces the support of a compulsory vaccination bill by almost 3 percentage points. The results are robust to different specifications regarding the definition of over mortality, the inclusion of regional fixed effects, and socio-economic variables. For vaccination behavior, we use smallpox vaccination reports at the local level for the time span from 1907 to 1933. We find that more affected places show higher vaccination absence rates in the smallpox vaccination campaigns after 1918, but not before. In the mechanism section, we provide evidence that mistrust into the government’s vote recommendation for health-related popular votes has increased in places that suffered most from the pandemic. The results might improve our understanding how epidemics shift a society towards mistrust into politicians and experts.