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Manuscript Submission Deadline 11 February 2023

Vaccines play a crucial role in the COVID19-crisis response. However, vaccine roll-out has been difficult due to logistical and production problems as well as the surge of vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy has become a serious threat to the efforts that have led to the protection of human health through science, potentially undermining communities' ability to reach thresholds of coverage necessary for herd immunity against COVID-19.

While health concerns also play a role, vaccine hesitancy has recently acquired strong political connotations. Research to date suggests that the ideological position regarding vaccines is characterised by profound distrust in the ruling elites, institutions and experts, as well as by active engagement with social media. Vaccine hesitancy fits in the political ideologies of populistic groups and of authoritarian regimes that may have interests in fostering the phenomena that contribute to destabilising democracies. Therefore, a full understanding of vaccine hesitancy, its drivers, and related behaviours – including political participation – is of utmost importance.

The aim of this Research Topic is to shed light on the vaccine hesitancy phenomenon, including the characteristics of vaccine hesitant people, the motivations for their scepticism, and their political participation and behaviour.

While vaccine hesitancy is confined to a minority of a country’s population, this group is large enough to risk herd immunity and the democratic stability. Despite the legitimate concern over the safety of vaccines, vaccine hesitancy may be associated with anti-elite views as well as with culturally closed rather than cosmopolitan positions. With political motivations that are close to those of populistic and extremist parties, vaccine hesitancy may be linked with deeper economic and social discontent that propel a profound distrust in institutions and traditional media. The use of social media as main source of information by the vaccine hesitant contributes to building a partisan polarisation of the political debate, with authoritarian countries ready to spread misinformation to undermine democratic institutions.

Against this background, investigation of motivations and political participation of vaccine hesitant populations is key to understanding at which stage of the Hirschman framework of “exit, voice and loyalty” (parts of) this group stands and whether the anti-elite connotation could have implications for the support for national governments in context of rising cost of living as well as the war in Ukraine.

This research topic aims at collecting original contributions that discuss the reasons for vaccine hesitancy, the political participation of the vaccine-hesitant populations, behaviour and their drivers. We welcome investigations into the role of trust in institutions in vaccine hesitancy as well as the influence that social media may have in polarising the debate around vaccines. The relationship between populism and vaccine hesitancy, as well as the role of misinformation, could be investigated. Authors could use the European Social Survey, the Eurofound Living, Working and COVID-19 survey as well as other national and international data sources in order to investigate vaccine hesitant people and their political behaviour. Multi-country or comparative studies will be prioritised, but analysis of national cases and national data sources are also welcome. Scientific papers should take the form of an original research article of a maximum length of 12,000 words.

Keywords: COVID-19, vaccine hesitancy, political participation, trust, populism, misinformation, role of social media


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Vaccines play a crucial role in the COVID19-crisis response. However, vaccine roll-out has been difficult due to logistical and production problems as well as the surge of vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy has become a serious threat to the efforts that have led to the protection of human health through science, potentially undermining communities' ability to reach thresholds of coverage necessary for herd immunity against COVID-19.

While health concerns also play a role, vaccine hesitancy has recently acquired strong political connotations. Research to date suggests that the ideological position regarding vaccines is characterised by profound distrust in the ruling elites, institutions and experts, as well as by active engagement with social media. Vaccine hesitancy fits in the political ideologies of populistic groups and of authoritarian regimes that may have interests in fostering the phenomena that contribute to destabilising democracies. Therefore, a full understanding of vaccine hesitancy, its drivers, and related behaviours – including political participation – is of utmost importance.

The aim of this Research Topic is to shed light on the vaccine hesitancy phenomenon, including the characteristics of vaccine hesitant people, the motivations for their scepticism, and their political participation and behaviour.

While vaccine hesitancy is confined to a minority of a country’s population, this group is large enough to risk herd immunity and the democratic stability. Despite the legitimate concern over the safety of vaccines, vaccine hesitancy may be associated with anti-elite views as well as with culturally closed rather than cosmopolitan positions. With political motivations that are close to those of populistic and extremist parties, vaccine hesitancy may be linked with deeper economic and social discontent that propel a profound distrust in institutions and traditional media. The use of social media as main source of information by the vaccine hesitant contributes to building a partisan polarisation of the political debate, with authoritarian countries ready to spread misinformation to undermine democratic institutions.

Against this background, investigation of motivations and political participation of vaccine hesitant populations is key to understanding at which stage of the Hirschman framework of “exit, voice and loyalty” (parts of) this group stands and whether the anti-elite connotation could have implications for the support for national governments in context of rising cost of living as well as the war in Ukraine.

This research topic aims at collecting original contributions that discuss the reasons for vaccine hesitancy, the political participation of the vaccine-hesitant populations, behaviour and their drivers. We welcome investigations into the role of trust in institutions in vaccine hesitancy as well as the influence that social media may have in polarising the debate around vaccines. The relationship between populism and vaccine hesitancy, as well as the role of misinformation, could be investigated. Authors could use the European Social Survey, the Eurofound Living, Working and COVID-19 survey as well as other national and international data sources in order to investigate vaccine hesitant people and their political behaviour. Multi-country or comparative studies will be prioritised, but analysis of national cases and national data sources are also welcome. Scientific papers should take the form of an original research article of a maximum length of 12,000 words.

Keywords: COVID-19, vaccine hesitancy, political participation, trust, populism, misinformation, role of social media


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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