Today, according to many public health experts, public confidence in vaccines is waning. The term “vaccine hesitancy” (VH) is increasingly used to describe the spread of such vaccine reluctance. But VH is an ambiguous notion and its theoretical background appears uncertain. To clarify this concept, we first review the current definitions of VH in the public health literature and examine its most prominent characteristics. VH has been defined as a set of beliefs, attitudes, or behaviours, or some combination of them, shared by a large and heterogeneous portion of the population and including people who exhibit reluctant conformism (they may either decline a vaccine, delay it or accept it despite their doubts) and vaccine-specific behaviours. Secondly, we underline some of the ambiguities of this notion and argue that it is more a catchall category than a real concept. We also call into question the usefulness of understanding VH as an intermediate position along a continuum ranging from anti-vaccine to pro-vaccine attitudes, and we discuss its qualification as a belief, attitude or behaviour. Thirdly, we propose a theoretical framework, based on previous literature and taking into account some major structural features of contemporary societies, that considers VH as a kind of decision-making process that depends on people’s level of commitment to healthism/risk culture and on their level of confidence in the health authorities and mainstream medicine.
Public confidence in vaccination is vital to the success of immunisation programmes worldwide. Understanding the dynamics of vaccine confidence is therefore of great importance for global public health. Few published studies permit global comparisons of vaccination sentiments and behaviours against a common metric. This article presents the findings of a multi-country survey of confidence in vaccines and immunisation programmes in Georgia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom (UK) – these being the first results of a larger project to map vaccine confidence globally.
Data were collected from a sample of the general population and from those with children under 5 years old against a core set of confidence questions. All surveys were conducted in the relevant local-language in Georgia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the UK. We examine confidence in immunisation programmes as compared to confidence in other government health services, the relationships between confidence in the system and levels of vaccine hesitancy, reasons for vaccine hesitancy, ultimate vaccination decisions, and their variation based on country contexts and demographic factors.
The numbers of respondents by country were: Georgia (n=1000); India (n=1259); Pakistan (n=2609); UK (n=2055); Nigerian households (n=12554); and Nigerian health providers (n=1272). The UK respondents with children under five years of age were more likely to hesitate to vaccinate, compared to other countries. Confidence in immunisation programmes was more closely associated with confidence in the broader health system in the UK (Spearman’s ρ=0.5990), compared to Nigeria (ρ=0.5477), Pakistan (ρ=0.4491), and India (ρ=0.4240), all of which ranked confidence in immunisation programmes higher than confidence in the broader health system. Georgia had the highest rate of vaccine refusals (6 %) among those who reported initial hesitation. In all other countries surveyed most respondents who reported hesitating to vaccinate went on to receive the vaccine except in Kano state, Nigeria, where the percentage of those who ultimately refused vaccination after initially hesitating was as high as 76%) Reported reasons for hesitancy in all countries were classified under the domains of “confidence,” “convenience,” or “complacency,” and confidence issues were found to be the primary driver of hesitancy in all countries surveyed.