Understanding how the Australian vaccine-refusal movement perceives itself

Tomas Rozbroj, Anthony Lyons, Jayne Lucke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Public health responses to the vaccine-refusal (VR) movement are hindered by inadequate research about the movement's aims, identity and perceived value for its members. This study examined how members of the VR movement in Australia described the movement and what being part of it meant to them. Descriptions of the VR movement by 696 members from across Australia were collected between January and May in 2017 via an online survey. The data were analysed using thematic discourse analysis. Members’ understandings of the movement and the beliefs underpinning these understandings were examined. Vaccine refusal was underpinned by distinct epistemic beliefs. Participants believed that mainstream vaccine promotion relies on dishonest communication of compromised research. They saw the VR movement as a science-based movement, researching both ‘mainstream’ and ‘hidden’ knowledge, promoting scientific values and advocating for better vaccine studies. Participants believed responsible parenting requires personally researching healthcare choices. Participants constructed the movement's identity in relation to common criticisms of vaccine refusal. These were discredited and repurposed to portray the movement as being brave and righteous. Participants believed people in the movement are astute, informed, responsible and courageous. They believed many members were impacted by vaccine-related harms, from which the movement now saves others. They saw themselves as fighting for an inconvenient truth that the mainstream ignores. Vaccine promotion needs to address the epistemic beliefs associated with vaccine refusal, yet these have been inadequately understood. Our findings contribute to understanding these beliefs. Furthermore, our findings suggest what messages targeting vaccine-refusing people should focus on. This may include acknowledging the significant effort that vaccine-refusing people invest in trying to protect their children, catering to vaccine-refusing people's high engagement and desire for detailed information, and avoiding stigmatising or confrontational vaccine-promotion strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-705
Number of pages11
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • anti-vaccination
  • attitude
  • Australia
  • identity
  • vaccine confidence
  • vaccine hesitancy

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