Working Paper

Trust Issues? How Being Socialised in an Autocracy Shapes Vaccine Uptake

Authors

  • Vanessa A. Boese-Schlosser
  • Michael Bayerlein
  • Scott Gates
  • Katrin Kamin
  • Syed Mansoob Murshed
Publication Date

The COVID-19 pandemic increased pressure on the relationship between governments and the public, making cooperation between both actors more critical than ever. Surprisingly, there is significant variation in public compliance with health policies, especially regarding vaccine uptake across different countries. Based on this finding, we seek to understand why vaccination hesitancy varies between countries. Instead of focusing solely on government trust and satisfaction, this research examines the impact of individuals’ experiences having lived in autocratic countries on vaccine hesitancy. We derive a formal model of how autocratic experience and the subsequent distrust in health policies affect the individual calculus on vaccine uptake, and test the propositions of our model in a sample of 33 European countries on the micro-level. We find that autocratic experience gravely impacts individual vaccine hesitancy. Our findings shed light on the prolonged impact of autocratic rule on societal processes and on the roots of vaccine hesitancy, which is not rooted in general distrust but rather a highly specific form of scepticism towards government action.

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Key Words

  • Autocracy
  • COVID-19
  • Pandemic
  • Vaccination
  • Public Health