Taking a COVID-19 Vaccine or Not? Do Trust in Government and Trust in Experts Help Us to Understand Vaccination Intention?

AuthorJan Wynen,Sophie Op de Beeck,Koen Verhoest,Monika Glavina,Frédérique Six,Pierre Van Damme,Phillipe Beutels,Greet Hendrickx,Koen Pepermans
Published date01 November 2022
Date01 November 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Administration & Society
2022, Vol. 54(10) 1875 –1901
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00953997211073459
Taking a COVID-19
Vaccine or Not?
Do Trust in Government
and Trust in Experts
Help Us to Understand
Vaccination Intention?
Jan Wynen1* , Sophie Op de Beeck1*,
Koen Verhoest1*, Monika Glavina1*,
Frédérique Six1,2, Pierre Van Damme1,
Phillipe Beutels1, Greet Hendrickx1,
and Koen Pepermans1
Governments worldwide are relying on the COVID-19 vaccines as the
solution for ending the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting crisis.
Although scientific progress in the development of a vaccine has been
astonishing, policymakers are facing an extra hurdle as increasingly more
people appear to be hesitant in their intention to take such a vaccine.
Based on a large Corona survey in Belgium, this study aims to explain the
vaccination intention by linking it to trust in government and experts, while
accounting for individuals’ risk perceptions and prosocialness.
trust in government, trust in experts, vaccine hesitancy, vaccination intention,
COVID-19, crisis management in experts, vaccine hesitancy, vaccination
intention, COVID-19, crisis management
1University of Antwerp, Belgium
2Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
*These authors have contributed equally to this article.
Corresponding Author:
Jan Wynen, University of Antwerp, Stadscampus, Prinsstraat 13, S.C.445, Antwerp 2000, Belgium.
Email: jan.wynen@uantwerpen.be
1073459AAS0010.1177/00953997211073459Administration & SocietyWynen et al.
1876 Administration & Society 54(10)
During the coronavirus pandemic, governments need to take highly restric-
tive and increasingly controversial measures to protect public health, pre-
vent health care from having to “triage” (select) patients and mitigate the
economic and social impact. The long-term solution and the only true exit
strategy from the coronavirus pandemic are the widespread vaccination of
citizens. In the history of medicine, no vaccine has been as eagerly antici-
pated as that to protect against COVID-19 (Bingham, 2021, p. 1). However,
the pressures on governments and experts in the race to a COVID-19 vaccine
may also have resulted in citizens being extra wary and doubtful about the
quality and reliability of the developed vaccines, which in turn is likely to
influence their intention to get vaccinated. Hence, the coronavirus pandemic
provides a special context in which people’s concerns about vaccination may
be even more pronounced than in normal times. Indeed, a development that
pre-dates the coronavirus pandemic is the increasing number of people who
are hesitant toward getting vaccinated (Larson et al., 2014).
Nevertheless, for governments, it is crucial to maximize vaccine uptake.
Stopping the spread of the coronavirus and allowing societies to return to a
normal situation will only be possible if the population is sufficiently immu-
nized and when herd immunity is attained. As a result, vaccination has become
an inherent part of the crisis management approach of governments. It is there-
fore key to understand what factors influence an individual’s vaccination deci-
sion. From the pre-coronavirus literature (i.e., non-pandemic context), we learn
that trust is an important factor in reducing vaccine hesitancy. Trust may refer
to trust in health care workers (Simone et al., 2012) or the health system
(Casiday et al., 2006), trust in the vaccine itself (Ozawa & Stack, 2013) and the
procedures to safeguard the effectiveness of the vaccine and the absence of
negative side effects (Hardt et al., 2013), and trust in the policymakers who
decide on vaccination strategies (World Health Organisation [WHO], 2014).
All point to a similar finding of higher trust reducing vaccine hesitancy.
In this study, we approach vaccination as part of the crisis strategy that
governments employ, as advised by experts, to combat the spread of the coro-
navirus. Given this approach, we look into the role of trust in government and
experts in people’s vaccination intention. In the first phase of the crisis, many
governments enjoyed a “rally-round-the-flag effect” with trust in government
rising to high levels (van der Meer et al., 2020). But as the pandemic persists
and the economic and social consequences are hitting citizens and businesses
harder, political pressure on governments increases and the rally-round-the-
flag effect seems to subside (GOVTRUST Centre of Excellence, 2020). A
similar trend can be observed when it comes to experts. While experts ini-
tially enjoyed even higher trust than the government, this has also gradually

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