The Impact of Large-Scale Social Media Advertising Campaigns on COVID-19

DATE: 2022-11-01

By Lisa Y. Ho, Emily Breza, Marcella Alsan, Abhijit Banerjee, Arun G. Chandrasekhar, Fatima Cody Stanford, Renato Fior, Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham

NBER Working Paper No. 30618 (Nov 2022).

Date Published: Nov 2022

COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in wealthy countries, yet many people remain unvaccinated. Understanding the effectiveness -- or lack thereof -- of popular vaccination campaign strategies is therefore critical. In this paper, we report results from two studies that tested strategies central to current vaccination outreach: (1) direct communication by health professionals addressing questions about vaccination and (2) efforts to motivate individuals to promote vaccination within their social networks. Near the peak of the Omicron wave, doctor- and nurse-produced videos were disseminated to 17.8 million Facebook users in the US and 11.5 million in France. In both countries, we cannot reject the null of no effect of any of the interventions on any of the outcome variables (first doses - US and France, second doses and boosters - US). We can reject very small effects on first doses during the interventions in both countries (0.16pp - US, 0.021pp - France). In contrast with similar campaigns earlier in the pandemic to encourage health-preserving behaviors, messaging at this stage of the pandemic -- whether aimed at the unvaccinated or those tasked with encouraging others -- did not change vaccination decisions.

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