November 2022

IZA DP No. 15730: Vaccine-Skeptic Physicians and COVID-19 Vaccination Rates

Andreas Steinmayr, Manuel Rossi

published online as 'Vaccine-skeptic physicians and patient vaccination decisions' in: Health Economics, 28 November 2023

What is the role of general practitioners (GPs) in supporting or hindering public health efforts? We investigate the influence of vaccine-skeptic GPs on their patients' decisions to get a COVID-19 vaccination. We identify vaccine-skeptic GPs from the signatories of an open letter in which 199 Austrian physicians expressed their skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines. We examine small rural municipalities where patients choose a GP primarily based on geographic proximity. These vaccine-skeptic GPs reduced the vaccination rate by 5.6 percentage points. This estimate implies that they discouraged 7.9% of the vaccinable population. The effect appears to stem from discouragement rather than from rationing access to the vaccine.