Populist politics and vaccine hesitancy in Western Europe: an analysis of national-level data

The European Journal of Public Health
Volume 29, Issue 3, June 2019
https://academic.oup.com/eurpub/issue/29/3

 

Populist politics and vaccine hesitancy in Western Europe: an analysis of national-level data
Jonathan Kennedy
European Journal of Public Health, Volume 29, Issue 3, June 2019, Pages 512–516, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckz004
Results
There is a highly significant positive association between the percentage of people in a country who voted for populist parties and who believe that vaccines are not important (R = 0.7923, P = 0.007) and effective (R = 0.7222, P = 0.0035). The percentage of people who think vaccines are unsafe just misses being significant at the 5% level (R = 0.5027, P = 0.0669).
Conclusions
Vaccine hesitancy and political populism are driven by similar dynamics: a profound distrust in elites and experts. It is necessary for public health scholars and actors to work to build trust with parents that are reluctant to vaccinate their children, but there are limits to this strategy. The more general popular distrust of elites and experts which informs vaccine hesitancy will be difficult to resolve unless its underlying causes—the political disenfranchisement and economic marginalisation of large parts of the Western European population—are also addressed.