COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy linked to childhood trauma: Study

London, Fab 2 (PTI) Reluctance or refusal to get vaccinated for COVID-19 infection may be associated with traumatic events in childhood, such as neglect, domestic violence or substance misuse in the family, a study suggests.

The findings, published in the journal BMJ Open, show that vaccine hesitancy was three times higher among people who had experienced four or more types of trauma as a child than it was among those who had not experienced any.

The researchers from Bangor University, UK, and colleagues analysed whether childhood trauma might be linked to current levels of trust in health systems information, support for and compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, and intention to get vaccinated against the infection.

They drew on the responses to a nationally representative telephone survey of adults living in Wales, UK, between December 2020 and March 2021, a period during which restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 infection were in force.

Out of an initial 6,763 people contacted, the responses of 2,285 who met all the eligibility criteria and who had answered all the questions were included in the final analysis.

The survey asked about nine types of childhood trauma before the age of 18: physical, verbal, and sexual abuse; parental separation; exposure to domestic violence; and living with a household member with mental illness, alcohol and drug misuse, or who was in prison.

It collected personal details and experiences of long term health conditions, levels of trust in health service information on COVID-19, and attitudes towards COVID-19 restrictions and vaccination.

The team, including researchers from Public Health Wales and Liverpool Hope University, found that around 1 in 5 respondents said they had experienced one type of trauma, around 1 in 6 reported 2-3, and 1 in 10 reported four or more types of trauma.

Increasing numbers of childhood traumas were independently associated with low levels of trust in National Health Services COVID-19 information, feeling that government restrictions were unfair, and wanting mandatory face coverings to be ditched.

Support for jettisoning mandatory face coverings was four times as high among those who had experienced four or more types of childhood trauma as it was among those who said they had not experienced any.

Younger age, male gender, and no history of long term conditions were also significantly associated with this stance, according to the researchers.

Experience of four or more types of childhood trauma was also associated with a desire to end social distancing, they said.

The study found that vaccine hesitancy was also three times higher among those with a childhood trauma count of four or more and higher in younger age groups.

The researchers noted that this is an observational study, and as such, can't establish cause. They also acknowledge several caveats to their findings.

Although in line with telephone surveys, the response rate was only around 36 per cent, and the findings relied on personal recall, the researchers said.

Women were also overrepresented, while the numbers of people from ethnic minority backgrounds were underrepresented, they added.