Sociodemographic Correlates of Vaccine Hesitancy in the United States and the Mediating Role of Beliefs About Governmental Conspiracies

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Objective: Vaccine hesitancy remains a significant public health challenge, and one that is socially patterned. This study examined whether the vaccine hesitancy effects of identifying as female, race–ethnicity, the number of children, educational attainment, and political conservatism were mediated by governmental conspiracy beliefs. Methods: Linear mediation models controlling for potential confounders were employed to analyze data from a national survey of adults (2019 Chapman University Survey of American Fears; n = 1,209). Results: Effects on vaccine hesitancy were significant and negative for educational attainment, and significant and positive for the other focal predictors. Governmental conspiracy beliefs significantly mediated each of these effects; the percent mediated was largest for Hispanic identity (79 percent), followed by female identification (69 percent), educational attainment (69 percent), number of children (55 percent), black identification (34 percent), and political conservatism (30 percent). Conclusion: This study underscores the importance of nonvaccine-related conspiracy beliefs for future interventions aimed at reducing sociodemographic disparities in vaccine hesitancy.