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Understanding vaccine-hesitancy

To better understand vaccine hesitancy, it is important to take a closer look at the variety of stakeholders that can influence attitudes towards vaccines. Healthcare workers play a particularly important role.

Spearheaded by Lisa Lehner during her fellowship at the KLI, a new study examines how midwives engaged with vaccine information in an Austrian context (in this case, measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations). The explorative qualitative study showed that engagement with information is strongly mediated by the midwives' ethics of care and professional beliefs as well as their specific roles in Austrian society. It is thus not enough to merely feed more or better information into the system to improve vaccine hesitancy (aka the deficit model of communication).

To better understand and address vaccine hesitancy, Lehner et al.'s work shows that (1) healthcare workers distill, process, and promote information differently depending on their ethics and role in the system; (2) the deficit model of information/communication is not an effective measure to understand or combat vaccine hesitancy; and that (3) we need multi-faceted and multi-level approaches to better combat vaccine hesitancy. We need to take into account how healthcare workers interact with clients and patients and recognize that the decision-making processes of both parents and healthcare workers are far from simplistic.


Lehner, L., Gribi, J., Hoffmann, K. et al. Beyond the “information deficit model” - understanding vaccine-hesitant attitudes of midwives in Austria: a qualitative study. BMC Public Health 21, 1671 (2021).