Becoming skeptical towards vaccines: How health views shape the trajectories following health-related events

JJ (Josje) ten Kate*, Willem de Koster, Jeroen van der Waal

*Corresponding author for this work

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Recent studies on skepticism towards childhood vaccination urge scholars to analyse vaccination trajectories. Focusing on a social group that recent studies point out as being especially relevant because of its relatively high level of skepticism toward childhood vaccination, we use in-depth interviews resembling open conversations to explore how more-educated parents' views on vaccination came about. Providing an in-depth understanding of these vaccine-skepticism trajectories, we additionally analyse 1) how health-related events play a role in parents' trajectories, and 2) how these trajectories are shaped by parents' pre-existing health views. Interviews with 31 more-educated Dutch parents reveal that different types of events incite respondents to start questioning vaccinations. Next to more commonly studied events that directly involve parents' or their children's health (e.g., (perceived) adverse effects of treatments), events that are also related to the topic of health or vaccination but do not involve parents' or their children's health (e.g., when health issues come up in a conversation) may incite parents to start questioning vaccination. Moreover, how respondents experience (different types of) health-related events, and how they go through distinct stages after this, proves shaped by their pre-existing health views: parents with nature-oriented health views came to doubt the fundamental principles of vaccination, turning instead to ‘alternative’ resources and practices; parents with science-oriented views queried the potential risks of vaccination and sought out what they viewed as the most scientifically sound information. We discuss the implications of our findings for scholarly debates and provide suggestions for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number114668
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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