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Kicking against the pricks: vaccine sceptics have a different social orientation

Jeroen Luyten, Pieter Desmet, Veronica Dorgali, Niel Hens, Philippe Beutels
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckt080 310-314 First published online: 28 June 2013


Background: In any country, part of the population is sceptical about the utility of vaccination. To develop successful vaccination programmes, it is important to study and understand the defining characteristics of vaccine sceptics. Research till now mainly focused either on the underlying motives of vaccine refusal, or on socio-demographic differences between vaccine sceptics and non-sceptics. It remained till now unexplored whether both groups differ in terms of basic psychological dispositions. Methods: We held a population survey in a representative sample of the population in Flanders, Belgium (N = 1050), in which we investigated whether respondents’ attitude to vaccination was associated with their basic disposition toward other community members or society in general, as measured by the Triandis and Gelfand social orientation scale. Results: We found that sceptics and non-sceptics have a different social orientation, even when several variables are controlled for. More specifically, vaccine sceptics scored significantly lower on both horizontal individualism and horizontal collectivism, indicating a lower disposition to see others as equals. Conclusion: These findings need confirmation in the context of different countries. Such insights can be valuable to optimize the design of effective communication strategies on vaccination programmes.

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