Vaccination is important. In Australia, for example, vaccination coverage among 5-year-olds for the terrible disease polio ranges from 93% in Tasmania and the ACT, down to 89.5% in Western Australia (the latter number is a disappointing memorial to the legendary Sugar Bird Lady).
Fortunately, the number of polio cases have been dropping as vaccine coverage improves (source).
Much of the world has now eradicated polio. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of Africa still have poor polio vaccination coverage, and are continuing to see cases. Taliban murders of vaccination workers are a factor in this, sadly.
Polio vaccination coverage worldwide (source)
Frederick Chen, Amanda Griffith, Allin Cottrell, and Yue-Ling Wong, in an interesting paper reported on the Science 2.0 blog, use an online game to investigate vaccination choices. Chen et al. find that “people’s behaviour is responsive to the cost of self-protection, the reported prevalence of disease, and their experiences earlier in the epidemic.”
These results imply that vaccination rates are likely to be disappointing – perhaps dangerously so – for some of the killer diseases which the Western world has half-forgotten. Dana McCaffery and other infants did not need to die of whooping cough, for example.
The methods used by Chen et al. are also an interesting way of obtaining human behavioural data in other domains. Here is some related work.