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The far-right and anti-vaccine attitudes: lessons from Spain's mass COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.

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BACKGROUND: Far-right politicians in several countries have been vocal opponents of COVID-19 vaccination. But can this threaten vaccine roll-out? METHODS: We take advantage of repeated cross-sectional surveys with samples of around 3800 individuals across Spain conducted monthly from December 2020 to January 2022 (n = 51 294) to examine any association between far-right politics and vaccine hesitancy through the whole vaccine roll-out. RESULTS: Consistent with prior data, we found that far-right supporters were almost twice as likely to be vaccine-hesitant than the overall population in December 2020, before vaccines became available. However, with a successful vaccine roll out, this difference shrank, reaching non-significance by September 2021. From October 2021, however, vaccine hesitancy rebounded among this group at a time when the leadership of the far-right promoted a 'freedom of choice' discourse common among anti-vax supporters. By the latest month analysed (January 2022), far-right voters had returned to being twice as likely to be vaccine-hesitant and 7 percentage points less likely to be vaccinated than the general population. CONCLUSIONS: Our results are consistent with evidence that far-right politicians can encourage vaccine hesitancy. Nonetheless, we show that public attitudes towards vaccination are not immutable. Whereas a rapid and effective vaccine rollout can help to overcome the resistance of far-right voters to get vaccinated, they also seem to be susceptible to their party leader's discourse on vaccines.



Humans, COVID-19 Vaccines, Cross-Sectional Studies, Spain, COVID-19, Vaccines, Vaccination

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Eur J Public Health

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Oxford University Press (OUP)
This publication is supported by Fondazione Cariplo (Rif. 2019 – 0863) and by a grant awarded by the Norwegian Research Council (project number 288638) to the Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research (CHAIN) at the Norwegian University for Science and Technology (NTNU).