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COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy associated with childhood trauma, new study suggests

By NICK GARCIA Published Feb 03, 2022 8:00 pm

A new study from the United Kingdom suggests that vaccine hesitancy may have stemmed from traumatic events during childhood, such as neglect, domestic violence, and alcoholism.

The peer-reviewed study led by a team of six researchers, published in the open-access online journal British Medical Journal Open, found that vaccine hesitancy was thrice as higher among people who have had four or more types of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

The study identified several ACEs before 18 years of age, like:

  • physical, verbal, and sexual abuse;
  • parental separation;
  • exposure to domestic violence, and;
  • living with a household member with mental illness, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and who was incarcerated.

Researchers called 6,763 adults living in Wales between December 2020 and March 2021, when lockdowns have been in place. Of that number, 2,285 individuals agreed to be interviewed.

They've been asked about suffering from the ACEs listed above, as well as their personal details and health conditions.

While about half of the respondents said they didn't suffer from ACEs, one in five said they had suffered one type. One in six, meanwhile, reported two to three types, and one in 10 had four or more.

Researchers also investigated trust in COVID-19 information and attitudes toward public health protocols and vaccination.

Those who had four or more ACEs were twice as likely to break COVID-19 rules, as they felt the restrictions are unfair. They're also more likely to forgo wearing of face masks and observance of social distancing.

About a quarter of the respondents also admitted to "occasionally" breaking COVID-19 rules, the study noted.

"Such individuals are already known to have greater health risks across the life-course," the study concluded. "A better understanding of how to increase their trust in health systems and compliance with health guidance is urgently required."

Researchers, however, acknowledged certain limitations, like the ACEs being self-reported and measured retrospectively "and therefore, may have been misremembered or otherwise misreported."

While the study had over 2,000 respondents, researchers also clarified that participation level was at 36.4%, which may "create a potential for a self-selection bias among respondents."

Women were also overrepresented, they said, while people from ethnic minority backgrounds were underrepresented.