Vaccine Hesitancy in China: A Qualitative Study of Stakeholders' Perspectives

Ronghui Yang*, Bart Penders, Klasien Horstman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A series of vaccine incidents have stimulated vaccine hesitance in China over the last decade. Many scholars have studied the institutional management of these incidents, but a qualitative study of stakeholders' perspectives on vaccine hesitancy in China is missing. To address this lacuna, we conducted in-depth interviews and collected online data to explore diverse stakeholders' narratives on vaccine hesitance. Our analysis shows the different perspectives of medical experts, journalists, parents, and self-defined vaccination victims on vaccination and vaccination hesitance. Medical experts generally consider vaccines, despite some flaws, as safe, and they consider most vaccine safety incidents to be related to coupling symptoms, not to vaccinations. Some parents agree with medical experts, but most do not trust vaccine safety and do not want to put their children at risk. Media professionals, online medical experts, and doctors who do not need to align with the political goal of maintaining a high vaccination rate are less positive about vaccination and consider vaccine hesitance a failure of expert-lay communication in China. Our analysis exhibits the tensions of medical expert and lay perspectives on vaccine hesitance, and suggests that vaccination experts 'see like a state', which is a finding consistent with other studies that have identified the over-politicization of expert-lay communication in Chinese public discourse. Chinese parents need space to express their concerns so that vaccination programs can attune to them.

Original languageEnglish
Article number650
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • incident response
  • organization of vaccination
  • vaccine hesitancy
  • vaccine safety

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