First, vaccine hesitancy has been a thing in Western societies ever since the flawed findings about autism being linked to measles vaccines.
If you recall, as early as 5-6 years ago, there had been a number of measles outbreaks due to talked up risks in measles. Yes, people may have been vaccinated themselves, but they are also highly protective of their children and the cause of autism has not, to date, been determined. It is not caused by vaccines, no, but no one really knows what causes it.
Second, if you listen to the average vaccine hesitancy spreader, they grab from a hodge podge of ideas, some of which I will quote here, at least from exposure to these claims in BC, Canada:
"The mRNA based vaccines are not like old-style vaccines. So they can't be compared". True, but the improved technology is not, in itself, a bad thing.
"Vaccines were developed extremely quickly, within about 12 months, compared to more like 5-10 years normally."
"Vaccines are being mandated to profit big pharma". A recent Skeptics question was asking whether covid vaccines were responsible for 96% of Moderna's profits (they are, it's a startup that was planning to do vaccines).
"Vaccines, and general covid measures, are meant to create a compliant and subordinate population, steeped in fear."
"Mortality rate for covid is low and influenza is just as deadly, without all this attention covid is getting." Mortality rate is indeed fairly low, around 1% with state-of-the-art medical care, though it it can spike up to 3-5% when hospitals are overwhelmed.
"99.997% survival rates" sometimes get quoted, even if the math doesn't work out in the least (last I checked, those rates would have meant like 4 deaths in BC, Canada, instead of 2000+).
"Only people who are unhealthy, with comorbidities are at risk".
"The average age of death is 80+"
"There are religious reasons to object to the vaccines as they were developed with embryo tissue". Again, true, but the cell lines in question are old and other medication has relied on them.
"I am the one who decides what goes in my body and the government should have no say". This ignores past mandated vaccinations for measles and smallpox, of course.
"The vaccines wear off after 6 months, look at booster requirement".
"The best type of immunity is natural immunity, after you've caught it". This ignores the real risk you have of dying if you catch it at a time when hospitals are triaging and it also ignores indications that covid can be re-caught, which is certainly the case with the common cold and the flu.
"Vacced people catch it too". Yes, but, in the CBC article I linked too below, it says After factoring for age, people not vaccinated are 22 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are fully vaccinated.
This is observed from hours of interaction with people posting these objections in our local CBC forums for British Columbia in Canada, where we have a daily summary of the provincial health officer's daily press briefing that is open of comments. Yes, all of the above I have seen multiple times, though the "big winners" are a) enforcing a compliant population and b) absurdly optimistic stats about survival rates. These are highly moderated forums, so the kookier ideas like triggering sterility and pure conspiracy theories don't get posted much, as they get taken down and might get users temporarily banned.
While it is tempting to link every doubter to rightwing camps, it's probably more accurate to say that people who don't trust their government don't trust those government with regards to vaccines either. That might be a lot of hard right-wingers in Germany and Republicans in the US but it could be hard lefties elsewhere.
(Judging from vaccination rates once availability was widespread, in the initial 2-3 months of our rollout in BC, there were probably about 10-15% of people who were somewhat vaccine hesitant, until we introduced a France-style vaccine passport, which has been driving the percentages up to 90%+. I really doubt 10-15% of our population flirts seriously with extreme right ideology.)
Or just people whose experience with their government hasn't left them much trust, like Rumania .
Another issue was that "politicians were too present" in promoting the country's vaccination campaign, said Ciobanu. "And as we know, it is not only the case of Romania but also in other countries, politicians are not really trusted by the population. So you need more key opinion leaders that have the trust of the population to get involved. And this has happened in the last couple of months, but probably not enough to overcome this barrier of mistrust that exists in the Romanian population," the expert told Euronews.
It is within this context that Russian sociologist Ekaterina Borozdina cautions that public hesitancy about Sputnik, the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, is not “about mistrust in medical science as such.” Rather, hesitation or refusal to get vaccinated emerges in the context of fraught relations between citizens and the state.
There is also a 2018 write up on measles vaccine hesitancy in the US.
Our results, in brief, demonstrate that political ideology affects vaccine attitudes indirectly, by affecting a person’s trust in health-related information sources, and more directly as well.
And one for covid in France, in 2021:
On the whole, other social characteristics - such as education, social class, and standard of living - played a similar role: the lower in the social hierarchy, the more reluctant one was to vaccination in general and against the Covid-19 vaccine in particular. In both cases, manual workers stood out: 17.1% were not at all in favor of vaccination in general (versus 5.9% of the Senior executive professionals) and 17.2% said they would most likely not get vaccinated against Covid19 (versus 8.2% of the senior executive professionals).
With regard to ethno-racial status, minorities were always more reluctant to the principle of vaccination, but in different ways: toward vaccination in general, racialized first-generation immigrants were the most reluctant (27% claimed they were not at all in favor of vaccination in general, compared to 10% in the mainstream population); meanwhile, with regard to the Covid-19 vaccine, it was DOM natives and descendants of DOM who were the most reluctant (23.7%, compared to 13.3%).
Living with a child increased distrust of the vaccine, especially for Covid-19: 17.4% of people living with at least a child responded certainly not to the question on the Covid-19 vaccine (versus 12% of people with no child).
Finally, it was noted that trust in the government was particularly strongly linked to the attitude toward the Covid-19 vaccine, whereas it was somewhat less significant in the case of vaccination in general.