Richie Poulton, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie Moffitt

Most people welcomed the opportunity to get vaccinated against COVID-19, yet a non-trivial minority did not. Vaccine-resistant people tend to hold strong views and assertively reject conventional medical or public health recommendations. This is puzzling to many, and the issue has become a flashpoint in several countries.

It has resulted in strained relationships, even within families, and at a macro-level has threatened social cohesion, such as during the month-long protest on parliament grounds in Wellington, New Zealand.

This raises the question: where do these strong, often visceral anti-vaccination sentiments spring from? As lifecourse researchers we know that many adult attitudes, traits and behaviours have their roots in childhood. This insight prompted us to enquire about vaccine resistance among members of the long-running Dunedin Study, which marks 50 years this month.

Specifically, we surveyed study members about their vaccination intentions between April and July 2021, just prior to the national vaccine roll out which began in New Zealand in August 2021. Our findings support the idea that anti-vaccination views stem from childhood experiences.

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