Herd Immunity: A Classroom Experiment

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Outbreaks of dangerous, preventable diseases have drawn attention to individuals who fail to obtain available and effective vaccines. This classroom experiment demonstrates the basic cost-benefit trade off inherent in vaccination. As more students obtain a costly vaccine, the likelihood of a non-immunized student catching the disease declines; non-vaccinating students obtain herd immunity. In equilibrium, a substantial fraction of students fail to obtain the vaccine. In addition to highlighting a genuine public health issue, the experiment can also be used more generally to illustrate the nature of externalities and the public goods problem.

by Alan Grant, Jim Bruehler and Andreea Chiritescu