How Vaccination Rates Impact Recovery for Wellness Businesses

Viruses are like internet fraudsters: They look for the most vulnerable and then move in for the attack.

The world anxiously awaits a “new normal” that at least slightly resembles pre-pandemic ways. The Mindbody Data Science team had predicted that our customers’ businesses would begin to surpass their 2019 levels by October 2021. However, now more than ever, we’re seeing that there’s one huge caveat: The markets with higher vaccination rates will fare better than their counterparts.

We’ve been watching closely, curious as to how this would all play out for our customers and their booking rates at their salons, spas, fitness centers, and wellness businesses. With Australia fighting the new variants, their consumer class and appointment bookings are down 23%, compared to 2019. As a comparison, bookings in the United States — where vaccination has received and will continue to receive a forceful push — are down by 3% as of July 2021. (Worth noting, though, is that some states are progressing faster than others due to a heavier focus on vaccinations.)

While we don’t know the exact number, experts have estimated that somewhere in the neighborhood of 70% to 90% of a population will need to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity. Some regions of the world are getting there, but as a globe, we still have work to do. The CDC’s updated mask mandate says that all fully vaccinated individuals can do without. However, businesses aren’t exactly checking who is and isn’t vaccinated. Furthermore, the variants present a threat to everyone, even fully vaccinated people. (Remember that no vaccine is 100% effective. You can still get a virus if you’ve been vaccinated against it.)

While it’s the first pandemic most of us have lived through, it’s certainly not the first example of a serious threat looking for vulnerable areas as a way in.

Think of theft, security breaches, and data corruption. There was a time when purchasing something by swiping your debit or credit card exposed you to considerable vulnerabilities. Once the card reader obtained your sensitive information, that data was nearly up for grabs.

Then, in the late 1950s, the chip card was introduced. It was built with an embedded microchip that could encrypt your information. Now, when you use your card to pay for something, you’re infinitely safer.

This is quite possibly the type of card you’re carrying around in your wallet. Some countries have made this standard practice. Others are on their way there. Still, others are slow to make the transition.

You can likely guess which countries are the likeliest to experience data and security issues.

And in a more recent example, we’re seeing a similar scenario play out with coronavirus and the vaccines available to protect against it. Coronavirus is the hacker. The vaccine is the chip card.

Coronavirus made its entrance around March of 2020 and quickly began ravaging countries around the world. We were all vulnerable. We were all a target. And then, around the fall of 2020, science brought us the first hint of relief: a coronavirus vaccine.

We officially had our chip card.

The vaccine was the first sliver of hope, the first sight of light at the end of the tunnel, that we had since the pandemic took hold. As of July 2021, roughly 25% of the world has received at least one COVID-19 vaccination. The challenge is that some regions of the globe are more vaccinated than others. Why, you ask? There are a few reasons. One is that there has been unequal access. Resources and money are lacking in some countries. Another is that in countries like the U.S., vaccine hesitancy is a barrier that must be overcome.

So, what’s going to happen? Similar to hackers looking for areas that have yet to adopt the chip card payment method, the coronavirus is going to look for regions that are particularly under-vaccinated. Those regions are going to be the biggest targets.

This isn’t just a hunch. We’ve watched this unfold around the world, and the numbers back it up.

India is hovering around a 20% vaccination rate, and the nightmare they’ve endured has been heard around the world. Canada, on the other hand, is standing at about 60%. Australia has served as a surprising cautionary tale. They seemed to have COVID-19 beat before the rest of the world. We thought it was due to the swift action they took and their lower population density, and those factors probably did play a role, at least, to some extent.

Businesses started reopening and returning to pre-pandemic levels, and everything was looking up. But low vaccination rates and the new variants have put many regions of the country back in shutdown (multiple times). Now, they’ll likely be slower to recover.

Taiwan was another region we learned from. Initially, they were a powerful example of how to avoid high levels of COVID exposure. However, there has been less of a focus on the vaccine, and they’re beginning to feel the pressure of the pandemic.

We’re already seeing the ramifications of a lax attitude toward the pandemic, and other countries will follow Australia and experience subsequent lockdowns if greater action isn’t immediately taken.

We think all businesses will agree that this is something we don’t want to face yet again. Class and appointment bookings hinge on a high vaccination rate in that area. Fighting coronavirus halfway doesn’t solve any issues; it merely delays more problems that will eventually crop up. For wellness businesses like salons, spas, and fitness centers to get back to their 2019 numbers and see their class and appointment bookings rise, a largely vaccinated population is a must.

Learn more about industry trends in the Mindbody Wellness Index.

VP, Data Science and Mindbody. Alex has worked in the Data and Analytics world for over 17 years building models and data warehouses.