Nordic Vaccine Scepticism Reflects Broader Mistrust in Modern Government and Science, Reveals New Book

Bringing together studies from across the Nordic region, a new book examines the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, with a particular focus on vaccine hesitancy. 

In 2019, the World Health Organization listed vaccine hesitancy as one of ten threats to global health. In a new book published by Routledge, researchers from the Nordics explore vaccine hesitancy and the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. The contributions address topics of trust – from trust in the healthcare system and politicians, to trust in journalists and fellow citizens – and the political and social tensions that arose during the pandemic.

Vaccinations are a medical intervention that, over time, has saved billions of lives globally, with Covid-19 vaccines being just one example of many, and the majority of Nordic citizens have a strong scientifically based belief in their efficacy. Nevertheless, the book’s findings highlight a minority opinion of vaccine hesitancy in these liberal democracies. Identified by their pluralism of voices, we need to understand expressions of vaccine hesitancy better. 

– It is of importance to acknowledge that people who are vaccine hesitant are not necessarily “anti-vaxx”, although they may consume content from anti-vaccination organisations when searching for facts that confirm or dispel their worries, says Mia-Marie Hammarlin, co-editor of the book. 

– Finding themselves somewhere in the middle of a continuum ranging from acceptance to refusal, they are vulnerable to manipulation and risk being judged by others, including healthcare professionals who are positioned to encourage vaccinations. The vaccine-hesitant are a heterogeneous group; some have personal experiences of illness and suffering that make them indecisive about inoculation, and others are sceptical towards vaccines because of a general mistrust towards experts and authorities.

The contributions to this book take an original perspective on vaccine scepticism, highlighting that rather than arising from ignorance or lack of knowledge, it is often a result of a more foundational lack of trust in government and science.

Scholars from a variety of fields – sociology, politics, anthropology, media and communication studies, cultural studies, for example – and those interested in public health, popular and political discourse, and questions of public trust, will find this book relevant.

The book will be available to purchase starting 24 February.