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Societal Responses to Familiar Versus Unfamiliar Risk: Comparisons of Influenza and SARS in Korea


*Address correspondence to Seonghoon Hong, Department of Economics, Chonbuk National University, Economics, 664-14 Duckjindong 1-ga, Chonju, Chonbuk 561-756, Republic of Korea; tel: 82-63-270-3035;


This study examines the connections between familiar (influenza) and unfamiliar (SARS) risks among the general public in a SARS affected society. Using a survey of 350 respondents in Chonju, we find that risk perceptions and a belief that influenza vaccination reduces the incidence of SARS explain behavioral intentions for influenza vaccination and purchase responses to a hypothetical SARS vaccine. Those respondents who believe that an influenza vaccination will very likely reduce SARS incidence have a high probability (79%) of intending to vaccinate, but a much lower WTP for a SARS vaccine than those without such a belief. This belief undoubtedly was influenced by a reframing of influenza vaccination as preventing SARS. Such reframing may lead to short-term improvements in vaccination rates to the detriment of long-term SARS vaccination development. When compared with a similar study in Taiwan, societal risk perceptions of SARS and WTP for a vaccine vary greatly according to the extent of a society's experience with SARS.