Social dilemmas are situations wherein individuals choose between selfish interest and common good. One example of this is the vaccination dilemma, in which an individual who vaccinates at a cost protects not only himself but also others by helping maintain a common good called herd immunity. There is, however, a strong incentive to forgo vaccination, thus avoiding the associated cost, all the while enjoying the protection of herd immunity. To analyze behavioral incentives in a vaccination-dilemma setting in which an optional treatment is available to infected individuals, we combined epidemiological and game-theoretic methodologies by coupling a disease-spreading model with treatment and an evolutionary decision-making model. Extensive numerical simulations show that vaccine characteristics are more important in controlling the treatment adoption than the cost of treatment itself. The main effect of the latter is that expensive treatment incentivizes vaccination, which somewhat surprisingly comes at a little cost to society. More surprising is that the margin for a true synergy between vaccine and treatment in reducing the final epidemic size is very small. We furthermore find that society-centered decision making helps protect herd immunity relative to individual-centered decision making, but the latter may be better in establishing a novel vaccine. These results point to useful policy recommendations as well as to intriguing future research directions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes