The physiological effects of vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) are well documented, yet the behavioural effects not well known. Risk compensation suggests that gains in personal safety, as a result of vaccination, are offset by increases in risky behaviour, such as socialising, commuting and working outside the home. This is potentially important because transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is driven by contacts, which could be amplified by vaccine-related risk compensation. Here, we show that behaviours were overall unrelated to personal vaccination, but—adjusting for variation in mitigation policies—were responsive to the level of vaccination in the wider population: individuals in the UK were risk compensating when rates of vaccination were rising. This effect was observed across four nations of the UK, each of which varied policies autonomously.


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Cite as

Buckell, J., Jones, J., Matthews, P., Diamond, S., Rourke, E., Studley, R., Cook, D., Walker, A., Pouwels, K. & team, C. 2023, 'COVID-19 vaccination, risk-compensatory behaviours, and contacts in the UK', Scientific Reports, 13, article no: 8441. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-34244-2

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Last updated: 11 July 2023
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